Saturday, November 13, 2010

NYT Editorial Slams Netanyahu

The New York Times called out Prime Minister Netanyahu in an editorial today for being more committed to a coalition than to peace, and called on Bibi to get moving on the settlement freeze. Most likely, it's not the end to a week in the US that Bibi was hoping for.

In light of both the editorial and this week's GA conference in New Orleans, it is interesting to note the difference in US response between Bibi's visit to the US this time, and his visit during the AIPAC conference in March 2010. In March, Bibi was able to undercut President Obama's calls for a settlement freeze by playing to his traditional base. In this case, the tactic appears to have somewhat backfired.

The key difference between the two is the start of the peace process. In March, President Obama's push for a unilateral freeze was viewed as a shift in the US-Israel relationship. This time, Bibi's comments are being perceived within the context of peace negotiations. The US-Israel relationship is about interests and power relations. The peace process is much more about people. The Israeli government is being asked to put its money where its mouth is, and is being universally understood as dragging its feet in the process.

Given that President Obama spent the week in Asia and spoke about Israel only in response to Netanyahu's statements, the week is not a "win" for Obama per se. But it is definitely a loss for both Netanyahu and the peace process. The way he reacts back in Jerusalem will be critical for determining both the future of his coalition and the peace process.

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