THE US MID-TERM ELECTIONS IN WHICH THE DEMOCRATIC Party took a beating have seriously hobbled President Obama's Middle East policy. Losing control of the House of Representatives to a more strident, more right-leaning, Israeli-friendly Republican Party seriously curtails his ability to find common ground with the Muslim world, the Palestinian/Israeli peace talks now all but confined to the graveyard of history. The loss of a majority in the US House of Representatives also accelerates the possibility of a new round of Palestinian/Israeli violence, the hawkish Israeli government now more confident of Congressional support for its self-serving policies; this despite an Israeli intelligence estimate that if peace with the Palestinians isn't achieved, Israel itself will face chaos.
Foremost among the negative implications caused by the Republican win is that the already moribund round of new Palestinian/ Israeli peace talks will fade away without even a whimper, in spite of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's assertion that progress is still possible. A last-ditch effort--an almost unabashed bribe, some call it--for Israel to halt settlement construction for a further 90 days is considered just a Band-Aid, the underlying problems of the Israeli land grab seemingly as impossible to solve as ever.
The announcement by the Israeli Ministry of Housing of a new round of building projects in Jerusalem in early November resulted in President Obama issuing only a half-hearted rebuke, with Prime Minister Netanyahu's sharp rejoinder that "Jerusalem is, and will always be, the capital of the Jewish State" possibly adding the final shovel of soil over the peace talks' coffin. Seriously challenged both at home and abroad, the Obama administration seems to have lost its will to stand up for its principles, the confident tones of two years ago now no longer present. By bribing Israel with an additional offer of 20 F-35 fighters, together with an assurance that the US will veto any Palestinian attempt at unilaterally declaring a Palestinian state, President Obama has caved in to Netanyahu's tough stance, the gain so short term (90 days) that it will almost expire by the time a serious negotiating agenda will have even been agreed upon.
Worse still, by accepting the Israeli condition that the United States will never raise the issue of Israel's illegal settlements again, President Obama has given away his last major bargaining card, a...