Upon entering office, President Obama made resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a top priority for his administration, saying the issue is “interrelated” with “what’s happening” throughout the region. Part of the administration’s strategy has been to get Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s conservative government to endorse a two-state solution and a full settlement freeze in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
After many months of balking and intransigence, Netanyahu finally announced that he would accept a Palestinian state (although a highly “circumscribed” one at best). And last November, the Israeli government announced a settlement freeze in the West Bank. Yet the move would only be temporary, exclude so-called “natural growth” construction already started and exclude East Jerusalem, where just yesterday, Israel’s Jerusalem municipality approved construction of new apartments for Jewish settlers.
In a recent meeting with Yaki Dayan, Israel’s Consul in Los Angeles, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel reportedly expressed his frustration with the situation, saying the U.S. is “fed up” with the Israelis who “adopt the right ideas too late“:
Emanuel’s complaint was made with regard to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s “belated recognition” of the principle of “two states for two peoples,” as well as the Jewish construction freeze in the communities of Judea and Samaria, which was only announced “many months” after the United States asked, or instructed, Israel to carry it out.
Emanuel also lashed out at the Palestinians, who he said “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity” for peace. According to Dayan, Emanuel said “if there is no progress in the diplomatic process, we will reduce our involvement and effort in the conflict, because we have other matters to deal with.”
By contrast, in an interview with Middle East Progress just last month, Special Envoy for Middle East Peace former Sen. George Mitchell said the administration is “determined” to get a deal, but that it will take time:
With time, with patience, and with courageous leadership, however, such compromises can be reached for one overriding reason: It is in the best interest of the region’s people — Israelis, Palestinians, and other Arabs. The next generation should not have to live through what the present leadership has endured, and we are determined that peace can be achieved.
Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “have been clear about our commitment both to Israel’s security and to the two-state solution based on the establishment of an independent and viable Palestinian state with contiguous territory,” Mitchell said. “This commitment is unwavering and in the national security interests of the United States.”
Washington Post columnist Sally Quinn has speculated that Emanuel could be leaving his post to take up a run for Mayor of Chicago, particularly if current Mayor Richard Daley retires.