Saturday, February 14, 2009

Two New Governments, Same Old Peace Talks

Palestinian-American journalist Daoud Kuttab had a column a week ago (Palestinians Unsure Which Israeli Leader Will Keep Gaza and the West Bank United) that addressed the politics of the two-state solution in the context of new elections in both the U.S. and Israel.

He was pleased that the new U.S. administration is still talking up the two-state solution, i.e., Israel and a unified Palestinian state, and especially pleased that George Mitchell and not Dennis Ross is the new special envoy:

The appointment of the anti-settlements Senator George Mitchell and his decision to open an office in Jerusalem speaks volumes as to what the new Israeli government should expect from the Obama administration.

Now that the Israeli elections are over and a hardline government led by the Likud Party is in charge, I expect Daoud foresees a diplomatic clash between the U.S. and Israel in which he assumes the U.S. will naturally have the upper hand.

That would be wishful thinking on his part, I'm sure. George Mitchell, the ex-Senator from Maine who became a lobbyist for the tobacco industry, eyeball to eyeball with Bibi Netanyahu, the ex-Sayeret Matkal commando who went on to twice become Prime Minister? I don't see Mitchell winning that contest of wills.

Not to mention the Rahm Emanuel factor (see here and here), which shouldn't make the Palestinians happy. How likely is it the new administration will arm-twist the Israelis when Obama's Chief of Staff is the son of Israeli immigrants of a strongly Likudnik bent, and someone so emotionally tied to his parent's homeland that he served as a Volunteer for Israel during the 1991 Gulf War?

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