In today's Open Zion, Peter Beinart may have something - that Obama is backing away from the Israel v Palestine mess to "lead from behind" by letting the Europeans spearhead any effort to pressure Netanyahu on issues like the proposed settlement expansion in West Bank E1.
Beinart's also correct, though, that it may backfire: Bibi will keep on with settlement expansion, so that by the time (if ever) there's new opportunity for negotiation, there will be nothing left to negotiate about.
Let's face it: Obama has made a mess of the entire "peace process" issue. As I warned back in early 2009, Bibi was able to bully our shiny-bright new president, although it was difficult for Obama to be tough with Bibi when Congress was in Bibi's corner to tag-team vs Obama. But I now suspect that Obama's calculus is the following:
- rebuilding here at home is priority #1. That means expending tons of focus and energy on dickering with GOP leaders in Congress on fiscal cliff, taxes, etc. Obama simply can't afford to dissipate his newly won political capital on battling with Bibi.
- Congress, as ever, has Bibi's back. It would take a monumental blunder on Bibi's part for Congress to abandon him.
- Bibi obviously is playing a long game with the "peace process" - meaning, stall, misdirect, do whatever it takes to give the settlers enough time to make "Greater Israel" an irreversible reality. In point of fact, it probably already is.
How Israel's victorious Greater Israel champions are going to deal with the likewise probably irreversible rise of populist-Islamist-dominated states in their neighborhood is another question. But they'd better be taking notice of how the leaders - and the people - of those states are no longer willing to take their cues from what Washington wants or demands.
Israel's leaders keep propelling their country farther and farther down the road to a defiant isolation from their neighbors. In the process, they're also putting Israel farther and farther out on that proverbial limb.