Tom Friedman, Jackson Diehl & Pres. Obama

Posted on October 20, 2010 In Blog

While Washington’s gossip mills churn (with questionable accuracy) over what Obama White House officials feel, not to mention think, about the impasse in the Middle east peace process, we find two leading columnists weighing in today.

The NYTimes’ Tom Friedman leaves no one without blame – he blasts Israel’s critics, laments Palestinian President Abbas’ actual weakness and also suggests Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is acting unreasonably. He writes:

“….I know this is a crazy, radical idea — when America asks Israel to do something that in no way touches on its vital security but would actually enhance it, there is only one right answer: “Yes.” …..Israel feels no compunction about spurning an American request for a longer settlement freeze — the only purpose of which is to help the United States help Israel reach a secure peace with the Palestinians. Just one time you would like Israel to say, ‘You know, Mr. President, we’re dubious that a continued settlement freeze will have an impact. But you think it will, so, let’s test it. This one’s for you.'”

Actually, Friedman does leave one person without blame, and that is President Obama (who Friedman does golf with) to whom he ascribes reasonable ideas and wise tactics. (Friedman, indeed rightly, derides those who denounce Obama as “anti-Israel.”)

But that’s where the Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl weighs in, writing, “….the settlement impasse originated not with Netanyahu or Abbas, but with Obama — who by insisting on an Israeli freeze has created a near-insuperable obstacle to the peace process he is trying to promote.”

If there has been any constant in Mideast peace efforts it is that every party involved – the Arabs, Israel AND the U.S. – point their fingers at the others for why the peace process does not proceed. We would not say that Israel must not, in Friedman’s words, “step it up” to try and move toward a resolution of the conflict. But we would say that Israel has done so – time and again. As Friedman notes, withdrawing from Gaza and Lebanon, freezing settlements for 10 months and more. What have the Palestinians done? What have the other Arab states done? And what has President Obama done by way of acknowledging that he bears some of the blame for the impasse?

Posted by Nathan J. Diament