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Obama's Mideast Bribes Won't Work

Author: Leslie H. Gelb, President Emeritus and Board Senior Fellow
November 21, 2010
The Daily Beast


What on earth are Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama hatching up for the Middle East this time? Believe it or not, the secretary of state and the president are offering Israel $3 billion of front-line jet fighters, mostly free, if it freezes some as yet unspecified settlement construction in the West Bank for 90 days. Their aim is to restart peace talks with the Palestinians. And wait until you hear this one: They are promising never again to ask Israel for another such freeze. This “strategy” tosses away all their bargaining leverage up front before Israel even starts negotiating.

U.S. officials say their bosses believe that this “new” freeze—as opposed to the freeze that failed a month ago—will trigger the elusive peace deal between the Palestinians and Israelis. But it won't. That is, it won't unless the Palestinians are prepared to put their own dramatic peace offer on the table, the way President Sadat of Egypt did in his historic 1977 peace visit to Jerusalem. But they won't.

The U.S. president and his secretary of state also are said by their subordinates to think that if they can, finally, create an Israeli-Palestinian peace, that will dissipate vicious anti-Americanism and even terrorism throughout the Muslim world. But it won't. Anti-Americanism and terrorism among Muslims rests far less on what happens with Israel and far more on how and when American combat ends in the Middle East and upon improving how our Muslim allies treat their own people.

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