Posted by Audiegrl
Time/Joe Klein—It was Halloween night in Jerusalem, and Benjamin Netanyahu came dressed as a peacemaker.“We’re prepared to start peace talks immediately,” the notoriously reluctant Israeli Prime Minister proclaimed, with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton standing at his side, poker-faced. “I think we should … get on it and get with it.”
It was a ploy, of course. The Palestinians were tangled up in themselves, yet again. They had elections looming, and their leader, Mahmoud Abbas, had to hang tough: he was demanding a total freeze to Israeli settlement-building on the West Bank — which was precisely what the Obama Administration had previously said it favored. Netanyahu was offering a partial freeze, not including new settlements in East Jerusalem, the desired capital of a future Palestinian state. This was a nonstarter for the Palestinians, but it had the holographic glow of a step forward. It was an “unprecedented” offer, Netanyahu trumpeted, with the joy of a chess master springing a trap.
It was a tough moment for Clinton, playing second fiddle at the Bibi-does-Gandhi show. President Barack Obama had softened his language on the settlements a few weeks earlier: instead of a total freeze, he had talked about Israeli “restraint” in settlement-building. And now Clinton seemed to cement the Administration’s retreat, agreeing that Netanyahu’s proposal was, indeed, “unprecedented,” even though the U.S. still favored a total freeze. The most important thing, she added, was for the parties to get to the table as quickly as possible. The onus was back on the Palestinians — and the Palestinians quickly expressed outrage at the Obama Administration’s retreat. Their Arab neighbors soon joined in, causing Clinton to backtrack two days later, telling reporters the Israeli plan “falls far short” of U.S. expectations, although she still insisted on calling it “unprecedented,” which was neither diplomatic nor wise.