At today’s Presidential Presser, Obama sought out some I/P questions…
Obama: Natasha Mozgovaya of Haaretz. Is she here? Natasha — there you are back there.
Q Mr. President, back in the region, the Palestinian and Israeli leaders, they sound a bit less ready for this historic compromise. President Abbas, for example, said the Palestinians won’t recognize Israel as a Jewish state. The question is, if these talks fail at an early stage, will this administration disengage? Or maybe you’re ready to step up and deepen your personal involvement.
Obama: President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu were here last week, and they came with a sense of purpose and seriousness and cordiality that, frankly, exceeded a lot of people’s expectations. What they said was that they were serious about negotiating. They affirmed the goal of creating two states, living side by side in peace and security. They have set up a schedule where they’re going to meet every two weeks. We are actively participating in that process. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be flying to the Middle East for the first series of next meetings on September 14th and 15th.
And so what we’ve done is to bring the parties together to try to get them to recognize that the path for Israeli security and Palestinian sovereignty can only be met through negotiations. And these are going to be tough negotiations. There are enormous hurdles between now and our endpoint, and there are going to be a whole bunch of folks in the region who want to undermine these negotiations. We saw it when Hamas carried out these horrific attacks against civilians — and explicitly said, we’re going to try to do this to undermine peace talks. There are going to be rejectionists who suggest that it can’t happen, and there are also going to be cynics who just believe that the mistrust between the sides is too deep.
We understood all that. We understood that it was a risk for us to promote these discussions. But it is a risk worth taking. Because I firmly believe that it is in America’s national security interests, as well as Israel’s national security interests, as well as in the interests of the Palestinian people, to arrive at a peace deal.
Part of the reason that I think Prime Minister Netanyahu was comfortable coming here was that he’s seen, during the course of 18 months, that my administration is unequivocal in our defense of Israel’s security. And we’ve engaged in some unprecedented cooperation with Israel to make sure that they can deal with any external threats. But I think he also came here understanding that to maintain Israel as a Jewish state that is also a democratic state, this issue has to be dealt with.
I think President Abbas came here, despite great misgivings and pressure from the other side, because he understood the window for creating a Palestinian state is closing. And there are a whole bunch of parties in the region who purport to be friends of the Palestinians and yet do everything they can to avoid the path that would actually lead to a Palestinian state, would actually lead to their goal.
And so the two parties need each other. That doesn’t mean it’s going to work. Ultimately it’s going to be up to them. We can facilitate; we can encourage; we can tell them that we will stand behind them in their efforts and are willing to contribute as part of the broader international community in making this work. But ultimately the parties have to make these decisions for themselves.
And I remain hopeful, but this is going to be tough. And I don’t want anybody out there thinking that it’s going to be easy. The main point I want to make is it’s a risk worth taking because the alternative is a status quo that is unsustainable.
And so if these talks break down, we’re going to keep on trying. Over the long term, it has the opportunity, by the way, also to change the strategic landscape in the Middle East in a way that would be very helpful. It would help us deal with an Iran that has not been willing to give up its nuclear program. It would help us deal with terrorist organizations in the region. So this is something in our interest. We’re not just doing this to feel good. We’re doing it because it will help secure America as well. [...]
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Two questions. One on Afghanistan. How can you lecture Hamid Karzai about corruption when so many of these corrupt people are on the U.S. payroll?
And on the Middle East, do you believe that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should extend the settlement moratorium as a gesture to peace? And if he doesn’t, what are you prepared to do to stop the Palestinians from walking?
Obama: [...] Now, with respect to Prime Minister Netayanhu and the Middle East, a major bone of contention during the course of this month is going to be the potential lapse of the settlement moratorium. The irony is, is that when Prime Minister Netanyahu put the moratorium in place, the Palestinians were very skeptical. They said this doesn’t do anything. And it turns out, to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s credit and to the Israeli government’s credit, the settlement moratorium has actually been significant. It has significantly reduced settlement construction in the region. And that’s why now the Palestinians say, you know what, even though we weren’t that keen on it at first or we thought it was just window dressing, it turns out that this is important to us.
What I’ve said to Prime Minister Netanyahu is that, given, so far, the talks are moving forward in a constructive way, it makes sense to extend that moratorium so long as the talks are moving in a constructive way. Because, ultimately, the way to solve these problems is for the two sides to agree what’s going to be Israel, what’s going to be the state of Palestine. And if you can get that agreement, then you can start constructing anything that the people of Israel see fit in undisputed areas.
Now, I think the politics for Prime Minister Netanyahu are very difficult. His coalition — I think there are a number of members of his coalition who’ve said, we don’t want to continue this. And so one of the things that I’ve said to President Abbas is, you’ve got to show the Israeli public that you are serious and constructive in these talks so that the politics for Prime Minister Netanyahu — if he were to extend the settlements moratorium — would be a little bit easier.
And one of the goals I think that I’ve set for myself and for my team is to make sure that President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu start thinking about how can they help the other succeed, as opposed to how do they figure out a way for the other to fail. Because if they’re going to be successful in bringing about what they now agree is the best course of action for their people, the only way they’re going to succeed is if they are seeing the world through the other person’s eyes. And that requires a personal relationship and building trust. Hopefully, these meetings will help do that.
Is it just me, or did Obama just totally ignore the Palestinians’ plight…?
I mean really…? Let Bibi see the world through Abba’s eyes…? And then let him ponder why there’s no ‘trust’ built up on the PA’s part…! Truly, how can ObamaRahma say with a straight face; ‘the settlement moratorium has actually been significant’…? In what world…?
The ‘settlements moratorium’ was mere ‘window dressing’, and the Palestinians, and the rest of the world know it…! They place no faith in Abbas and have made it abundantly clear…! Yet, Obama and Bibi seem to think it has fostered a modicum of trust…!
Why did Obama mention Israel’s security five times, yet, not one mention of the Palestinians’ security, free from any Israeli oppression/occupation…?
Another particularly galling utterance by Obama was; ‘to maintain Israel as a Jewish state’… Wtf…? Even Israeli Arab MKs are saying that’s totally unacceptable…
Mohammad Baraka, an Arab member of the Israeli Knesset, has described Prime Minister Netanyahu’s demand for the "recognition of Israel as a Jewish state" as tragic and crude and reflects the absurdity of negotiations that are devoid of any reference of legitimacy at all. [...]
Baraka added that the negotiations which are being initiated and conducted under international pressure, specifically American pressure, as well as the unfortunate and shameful decision of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, which includes 13 Arab countries, has no foundation, and are therefore futile amounting to no more than playing in Obama and Netanyahu’s playground.
He explained that at the time when the Palestinian leadership have agreed to negotiate without reference, Netanyahu came out with impossible conditions before the start, one of which is the condition of recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, which reflects the tragic and absurd nature of the negotiations.
Baraka commented that the "farce produced by Israel was completed in full when they asked the Palestinians to acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state and Syria as an enemy".
The farce continues and there’s nothing the Palestinians can do about it…! What a travesty…!
To add insult to injury…
Israeli Army: settlers are preparing to build thousands of settlements
…Maariv newspaper quoted Israeli army command as saying that Jewish circles intend to launch huge campaigns to build in all of the Palestinian territories after the settlement freeze expires on 26th September.
The leadership in the so-called "central region" of the occupation army confirmed that the settlers are set to carry out "widespread acts of sabotage on the one hand, and settlement building throughout the West Bank and Jerusalem, on the other".
Where’s Obama’s outrage…? *gah*