U.S. Officials Hint at Obama's New Peace Tactic: Stand Back and Let the World Confront Netanyahu

According to a report by Peter Beinart, senior U.S. officials believe the president is taking a 'benign neglect' approach to scare Israel's leaders into action vis a vis the Palestinians.

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Barak Ravid
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ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

During his second term, U.S. President Barack Obama does not intend to directly confront Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the Israeli-Palestinian front. Instead, Obama is expected to stand back and allow the rest of the world - the European Union in particular - to exert international pressure on Netanyahu.

This information was made public by Peter Beinart, who is the most prominent liberal voice of American Jewry today, considered one of Obama's associates, and was even invited to meetings with the president during his first term.

Senior officials in the Obama Administration believe that only by standing back, when Netanyahu himself starts feeling significant international isolation, will there be a chance that Netanyahu will change his ways and agree to seriously advancing the Palestinian issue.

In an article published in Newsweek magazine called "Why Obama Will Ignore Israel", Beinart cites senior officials in the Obama Administration who believe the president is taking a new approach.

The first hints of this new approach, which Beinart calls "benign neglect", were when the United States mostly stood aside as the Palestinians sought to upgrade their UN status to non-member observer state.

While in the past the United States lobbied hard against such a move, this time, writes Beinart, it "went through the motions" with a "half-assed" approach. In addition, the American officials explain to Beinart, Obama did not curb the harsh European reaction to Netanyahu's decision to advance construction plans in Area E-1.

"[I]nstead of confronting Netanyahu directly, Team Obama has hit upon a different strategy: stand back and let the rest of the world do the confronting", writes Beinart, "Once America stops trying to save Israel from the consequences of its actions, the logic goes, and once Israel feels the full brunt of its mounting international isolation, its leaders will be scared into changing course."

Beinart then quotes a senior administration official: "The tide of global opinion is moving [against Israel],” he writes, "And in that environment, America’s 'standing back' is actually 'doing something.'"

But despite this new approach, the officials say, the United States will continue supporting Israel militarily, as it does today, continue financing the Iron Dome anti-missile defense system and continue to support curbing any Palestinian effort to use its new UN status against Israel in lawsuits at the International Criminal Court. Furthermore, the United States will work to prevent the collapse of the Palestinian Authority and avert deterioration to violence in the West Bank and the return to rocket fire in the Gaza Strip.

What the United States won't do, the officials told Beinart, is launch a new peace process, and Obama won't appoint a "big-name envoy" to the Middle East in an attempt to renew the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. The reason, says Beinart, is that "such negotiations would let Netanyahu off the hook."

The senior administration officials explained that they do not believe Netanyahu is serious about the peace process, or willing to make the compromises necessary for establishing a Palestinian state. Instead, they said, the Israeli prime minister just wants the facade of a peace process, "because it insulates him from international pressure."

"By refusing to make that charade possible, Obama officials believe, they are forcing Netanyahu to own his rejectionism, and letting an angry world take it from there," writes Beinart.

Netanyahu and Obama at the White House's Oval Office in March 2012.Credit: AP

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