Archive for July, 2011


This piece originally published at LobeLog

The Obama Administration is scrambling to keep itselfout of a difficult position between two of its most important Middle East allies, Turkey and Israel.

Obama, Netanyahu, and Erdogan

The two countries have seen their relations deteriorate for years now, highlighted by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan’s dressing down of Israeli President Shimon Peres at the World Economic Forum in 2009 and the confrontation over Israel’s killing of nine Turks on the Mavi Marmara, a ship trying to run the blockade of Gaza last year.

Analysts have a variety of opinions on the importance of each country to US interests in the region, but US diplomats certainly want to keep a strong relationship with both. Congress, pushed by domestic pressures, especially pro-Israel lobbying groups, has a different approach.

The potential for problems for US diplomacy was previewed in March, 2010. The House Foreign Affairs Committee, which had always been reserved on the matter of the Armenian Genocide (perpetrated by the Turks during and after World War I) issued a statement calling for American recognition of that crime. Turkey recalled its ambassador in response.

The matter went no further, but it illustrated the tensions between politics and diplomacy.

The pro-Israel lobby promoted the Armenian Genocide resolution. Now, however, they are supporting Netanyahu and potential rapprochement between Turkey and Israel. But that resolution was a signal that this could change, if Turkey’s relations with Israel degenerate further.

Israel and Turkey are at odds, but still technically allied. The Obama Administration wants to mend those fences, not tear them further asunder.

The immediate issue is Turkey’s demand for an apology for the Mavi Marmara killings. The UN will soon release a UN report, delayed now until August 20, which will state that Israel’s blockade in Gaza is legal, but that it used excessive force on the Mavi Marmara. If Israel apologizes before that report is released, it will blunt the effect of the latter conclusion. (more…)

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This piece was originally published at LobeLog

The anticipated meeting of the Middle East Quartet (the United States, Russian Federation, United Nations and European Union) took place Monday. The result was what has become pretty standard for Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy and peacemaking: nothing.

(L-R) Quartet Representative Tony Blair, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and EU representative Catherine Ashton

The Quartet is incapable of doing anything unless the US can do something, and the US refuses to take any action outside the realm of “direct negotiations between” the Israelis and Palestinians. The goal of this meeting was to try to come up with a formula that would bring the Israelis and Palestinians back to the table.

The failure to come up with that formula led to the Quartet ending the meeting without a statement. There was simply nothing to say.

The Europeans pushed for this meeting, which the US had hoped to postpone to gain more time to bring the Palestinians back to the table. Perhaps it was the American inability to do that which prompted the EU’s insistence; that’s certainly fair speculation.   (more…)

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Virtually no one disputes the fact that the Netanyahu government has become the most isolated in Israel’s history. Whether one supports or opposes Bibi’s policies, and whether or not one thinks the global reaction either worthwhile or unavoidable, the question of how to raise Israel’s standing in the world is one that people grapple with

The Israeli and South Sudanese flags

across the political spectrum, albeit in different ways.

Today, Israel finds itself with a new opportunity in North Africa, and a renewed relationship with a Mediterranean state in Europe. Only time will tell if Israel will make something of this chance, and it will probably depend even more on Benjamin Netanyahu’s successors than it does on Bibi itself.

The newly-independent South Sudan is building a relationship with Israel. With few friends in the region, that’s something Israel desperately needs. (more…)

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I’m sure some folks have noticed my absence here of late. But that’s all coming to an end. There will be more posts here soon. Also, I’ll be contributing to LobeLog as well. My first post there regards US response to the Palestinian campaign for UN recognition of their statehood.

My thanks to my readers for their patience.

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