President Obama has been widely criticized of late for appearing weak in his political dealings with the Republicans in Congress.
As a pragmatist by nature, Obama has sought to compromise with his adversaries on various pieces of legislation in an effort to get the country out of its ongoing financial crisis. When he allowed oil and gas companies to keep their tax breaks in passing the debt deal last month, for example, fellow Democrats accused the president of caving. He should have stuck with his principles, many said. They noted that rather than softening the Republicans up for future negotiations through his willingness to work with them, Obama now looks more vulnerable to his adversaries on the right who will just seek more concessions in the future.
Ironically, it is the Obama administration that has been pushing Jerusalem for more than two years to make concessions to the Palestinians in the hopes of resuscitating the long-dormant peace negotiations.
When Prime Minister Netanyahu has insisted that it is the Palestinian Authority that is implacable in its refusal to come back to the talks, even after Israel put in place a moratorium on settlement construction, Washington has not been swayed, instead keeping up the pressure.
Recent Mideast history has shown that when Israel makes conciliatory gestures, like unilaterally leaving Lebanon in 2000 and Gaza in 2005, the Arab response has not been gratitude, or compromise. Rather, the result has been violence, and calls for more concessions. The Palestinians interpret Israel’s withdrawals as signs of weakness.
One would think that Obama, reflecting on his struggles with the Republican Congress, would view Netanyahu’s stance vis a vis the Palestinians with more empathy and appreciation now.
One would think.