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Israel sees a warming in White House position, observer says
by Lee Chottiner
Executive Editor
Nov 12, 2009 | 1028 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Barry Rubin thinks the U.S. position toward Israel is changing — and in Israel’s favor.

In a Nov. 1 posting on his blog, The Rubin Report, he noted Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s recent statements in Jerusalem in support of the Israeli government.

“Obviously, the Obama administration has an interest in portraying itself as making great progress on the peace process even though it isn’t,” Rubin wrote. “What’s especially interesting though is that this strategy requires good relations with Israel and building up its willingness to be flexible. And of course this is quite different from some of the behavior seen during the administration’s early days.”

And this week, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, speaking at the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly, called on Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate for peace without preconditions, echoing what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the G.A. a day earlier.

So what’s going on here?

Rubin, director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs Journal, told me that the administration is waking up to the reality of the Arab position: total victory is still possible so why negotiate with Israel?

“In the case of Israel, the administration is starting to find out its original viewpoint was wrong,” Rubin said. “They thought the Palestinian Authority and Arab states were eager for peace. [Instead], they’ve been very uncooperative. Israel has been very cooperative.”

Rubin was in Pittsburgh this week to speak at the University of Pittsburgh. The Zionist Organization of America, Pittsburgh District, Hillel Jewish University Center, United Jewish Federation and Panthers for Israel co-sponsored the program.

That the Palestinian Authority won’t return to the negotiating table unless Israel ceases all settlement construction is not only counter to the U.S. position, but Rubin says Obama and his advisors are still smarting from the P.A.’s support for bringing the Goldstone Report, which suggests Israel and Hamas committed war crimes during the recent Gaza fighting, before the U.N. Security Council — something Rubin says the administration asked them not to do.

The Palestinians still believe total victory is possible because of what has been called the “demographic time bomb” — the supposed higher birthrate for Palestinians.

Rubin called that argument “totally phony and unimportant,” and he questioned the accuracy of the demographic figures as well.

Anyway, “what difference does it make how many Israelis live in the West Bank and Gaza Strip?” He asked. “Israel is not going to annex them.”

(Lee Chottiner, the executive editor of The Chronicle, begins a weekly column on the editorial pages. He can be reached at leec@thejewishchronicle.net.)

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