There are those who heard in Obama’s speech on the Middle East an attempt – as Mitt Romney elegantly put it – to throw Israel “under the bus” and those who thought it was just the same old steadfast support for Israeli positions that every American president expresses. Both sides, it’s clear, seem to only watch for and listen to the words and deeds most convenient for making their case. So even if you hear the president loud and clear and with shocked ears when he says, “the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines,” somehow the volume drops off a second later when he adds, “with mutually agreed swaps.”
One thing that got totally overlooked in all the hysterics was Obama’s opposition to any unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood in the United Nations come September. He said this as plainly as possible.
Today there’s some proof that he meant what he said. And it comes from the Palestinians themselves who seem to be slowly backing away from September.
A Jerusalem Post article quotes senior Palestinian Authority officials saying that after a visit this week to Washington by Saeb Erekat and Nabil Abu Rudaineh, two top PA negotiators, the Palestinians are rethinking their strategy. It’s also clear that pressure from the administration is the decisive factor.
“We are under pressure from the Americans and some Europeans to postpone the plan to ask for UN recognition in September,” the official told The Jerusalem Post. “They are even threatening to impose financial sanctions on us if we don’t comply.”
What’s more, in the face of this pressure, it appears that Erekat has abandoned the PA’s earlier demand that the Israelis impose a settlement freeze. In exchange for putting off the UN tactic, all he’s asking for now, quite vaguely, is no further “provocations” in the coming month. Basically, the PA doesn’t want Israel to do anything that will make them look stupid for postponing the statehood bid. That’s not asking much.
To me, this goes a long way towards proving that Obama has Israeli interests in mind. If he can dissuade the Palestinians from a move that has much popular support internally and internationally than it must mean he is leaning very heavily on them. I don’t see how you can interpret this in any other way.
Gal Beckerman is the Forward’s Opinion Editor. He was previously an assistant editor at the Columbia Journalism Review where he wrote essays and media criticism. His book reviews have appeared in The New York Times Book Review and Bookforum. His first book, “ When They Come for Us, We’ll Be Gone: The Epic Struggle to Save Soviet Jewry, ” won the 2010 National Jewish Book Award and the 2012 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, as well as being named a best book of the year by The New Yorker and The Washington Post. Contact Gal Beckerman at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @galbeckerman