Bargaining with Bibi: Does the Obama administration know what it’s in for?

Reading the JTA report about an “unprecedented U.S. offer of a host of assurances in return for a 60-day extension of the freeze on building in West Bank settlements,” I found myself wondering: doesn’t anybody at the State Department or White House read the Israeli press?

I mean really: isn’t this like the endless wrangling over Israel’s governing coalitions, with the dominant party offering ever-greater concessions in the form of money, jobs and perks, and the folks being wooed always holding out for more?

Then, after the deal is done, everybody hits the reset button and starts wrangling over the NEXT issue to be decided by trench-warfare bargaining.

It’s also like Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations themselves, with every breakthrough threatened by last minute demands, everybody holding out for every last concession.

And all this is for a 60 day extension of a settlement moratorium that will probably end for good when the clock stops running.

In an analysis story this morning, the New York Times quoted former U.S. ambassador Dan Kurtzer saying “It’s an extraordinary package for essentially nothing. Given what’s already happened, who thinks that a two-month extension is enough?”

You have to wonder: what else is going on here, behind the scenes?

Do officials here know something we don’t know, and have reasons to believe that 60 days will be enough to produce a quantum leap in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that resumed last month and immediately stalled, thus justifying a huge package of incentives that includes new military equipment, help in stopping arms smuggling and a pledge to veto UN Security Council resolutions hostile to Israel?

Or is this a desperate ploy to keep the talks going beyond the November elections, and thus preserve President Obama’s image as an active peacemaker?

Or is it that folks here just don’t read the Israeli papers and don’t know what they’re letting themselves in for when they try to buy their way to concessions from both sides?

In case you missed the point, I don’t get it.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.