The good folks at J Street are assembling a petition to support Obama: Freeze Means Freeze. They’re a good group, and they should be supported. Go to it!
I think, however, that there is a better way for Obama to deal with Netanyahu: Ignore Him.
What if Obama sat down with the two Abdullahs and worked out an outline of an actual final settlement, probably something like the People’s Voice Accord (also known as the Nusseibeh-Ayalon Agreement)?
The two Abdullahs would then tell Abbas to take it, with a promise that the US would accept it if he did.
Then, they could all present it as a Security Council resolution, as well as proposing that the Israeli and Palestinian electorates vote on it, as Nusseibeh has advocated.
What would Netanyahu do then?
He could hardly claim that the Palestinians or the Arab world has rejected Israel as a Jewish state, because the agreement accepts it.
He would go to the fake “pro-Israel” forces in DC, who might dutifully accuse Obama of selling out, but that would not get much purchase, for the same reasons mentioned above. Besides, even Paul Wolfowitz has spoken out in favor of the People’s Voice.
He could argue that the Obama-Abdullahs deal violates Israeli sovereignty, but since the package involves voting on it, that would not be very credible, either.
American diplomacy has relied for decades on the assumption that Israeli-Palestinian peace must result from direct talks. This assumption has not been unreasonable, but it is outdated. Israel insisted on direct talks because it wanted to make sure that it was not undermined at an international conference, and that the Arabs would deal directly with it.
But that no longer really holds true, because the Arabs are dealing directly with it, and it doesn’t need the US to undermine it at an international conference because the current government is going such a good job of it itself.
Of course, there are a whole of assumptions behind this scenario, most importantly, that the Abdullahs would have the courage to make the kinds of concessions that the Palestinians must make, in exchange for the United States making the kinds of concessions the Israelis must make. And of course it assumes that the Obama Administration would do the same for its part. And that Abbas would go along.
All questionable. But if they aren’t true, or even close to true, then it’s not just Netanyahu’s fault.
In any event, it is worth a try. There are always reasons for why some approach to Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking will fail. And they have all been right. But that does not justify throwing up your hands.
We might just call this Middle Eastern strategy The Indirect Approach.