Stalemate Looms in Obama’s Mideast Peace Effort

November 8, 2009

Settlement freeze was the key word when President Barack Obama initially began his effort at an Israeli-Palestinian peace process; but now the re-launch of that effort is falling apart faster than you can say those words. While Secretary of State Hillary Clinton struggles to convince Arab foreign ministers, the Israelis and Palestinians are engaged in a verbal war accusing each other of stalling the peace process. At the heart of the controversy is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s offer to restrain settlement activity, an offer which the Obama administration is now trying to push on the Arab states. This however has tarnished the credibility of the administration, as they had previously cited the 2002 Road Map for Peace and demanded that Israel stop all construction in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

In the absence of a settlement freeze, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has refused to negotiate with the Israeli Prime Minister and Netanyahu in turn has pointed out that Abbas never mentioned a settlement freeze in talks with former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, which took place last year. The impasse puts the Obama administration in an awkward position and only serves to highlight the decline of influence the U.S. has over the Arab states and mainstream Palestinian moderates. Considering the gulf between the expectations and demands of the two opposing sides, any resumption of talks may only be purely symbolic. The situation was, perhaps, summed up succinctly by Arab League secretary Amr Moussa, “I still wait until we have our meetings and decide what we are going to do, but failure is in the atmosphere all over.”