'Obama misstepped regarding settlement issue'

Washington Post criticizes Obama's Mideast policy: President must be "tough on more than one country."

Obama 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Obama 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
The current tensions between Israel and the United States, most recently demonstrated by a poll which showed America's public image on the decline in the Jewish state, might have been avoided had US President Barack Obama not taken such a harsh stance against settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, the Washington Post's Thursday editorial stated.
While acknowledging that confrontation over steps needed to achieve peace was inevitable between the US administration and the various regional players in the Middle East, the editorial maintained that Obama should have accepted initial Israeli concessions, and should have avoided the demand for a total settlement freeze.
"Rather than pocketing [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu's initial concessions - he gave a speech on Palestinian statehood and suggested parameters for curtailing settlements accepted by previous US administrations - Mr. Obama chose to insist on an absolutist demand for a settlement 'freeze,'" the editorial stated. "Palestinian and Arab leaders who had accepted previous compromises immediately hardened their positions; they also balked at delivering the 'confidence-building' concessions to Israel that the administration seeks."
In addition, the paper maintained that Netanyahu's government earned critical public support due to what Israelis perceived as unfair treatment from Washington.
"Israeli public opinion, which normally leans against the settler movement, has rallied behind Mr. Netanyahu," the editorial said. "And Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, which were active during the Bush administration's final year, have yet to resume."
The piece went on to predict that an eventual compromise between the US and Israel over settlements, which would see some building projects completed with others temporarily halted, would inevitably draw more criticism from Arab states than it would have had the issue not been escalated in the first place.
"If he is to be effective in brokering a peace deal, Mr. Obama will need to show both sides that they can trust him," the paper stated, adding that he must also "be tough on more than one country."