Photo Credit: Flash 90
President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu

When Barack Obama became president, he promised to take a different approach in dealing with the   Israeli and the Palestinian Arab conflict. He began, what he hoped to be, an historic transformation of America foreign policy by traveling to Cairo to ask for a “new beginning” between America and the Islamic world to correct the misconception of the alleged favoritism toward Israel at the expense of the Muslim nations. [1]

In his first interview, six weeks after assuming office, Obama told Hisham Melhem of the Arab satellite station Al Arabiya that as president his “job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy.” In explaining his Middle East policy, Obama acknowledged there would be some Israelis who would not share his position. “Now, Israel is a strong ally of the United States. They will not stop being a strong ally of the United States. And I will continue to believe that Israel’s security is paramount. But I also believe that there are Israelis who recognize that it is important to achieve peace. They will be willing to make sacrifices if the time is appropriate and if there is serious partnership on the other side.  [2]


This strategy led Obama to focus on linkage and settlements, which he viewed as illegitimate. As he stated in his Cairo speech, “The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements.  This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace.  It is time for these settlements to stop.” [3]

His expression of sympathy for the Palestinian Arabs who suffered “daily humiliations, large and small, that come with occupation,” [4] signaled that the administration held Israel responsible for the conflict, not Palestinian Arab conduct. [5]

Using the term “occupation” conveyed a strong message:  “America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and we will say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs.” By publicly distancing America from Israel, Obama wanted to demonstrate that the U.S. could be a reliable mediator. [6]

The peace process for Obama, according to Mark Landler, the White House correspondent for The New York Times, is about terminating Israel’s “occupation” of Judea and Samaria, which would be “a kind of silver bullet.”  Once the Israeli’s vacated the area, Muslim hatred toward Israel and America would decrease, enabling the president to extricate the U.S. from this war-torn region. [7]

The president has concluded that the Middle East is no longer vital to American interests. And even if an American president wanted to intercede in this quagmire, there is very little he could do to neutralize the situation. Intervention would inevitably lead to war, to the deaths of U.S. combatants, and the diminution of American credibility and power, which the country cannot afford.

Obama believes the problem in the Middle East is tribalism, which no American president can neutralize. The failing Arab states have prompted their despondent citizens to return to sect, creed, clan, and village, which is the root cause of a great deal of the problems a Muslim faces today in the area, and it is an additional source of his resignation and fatalism. [8]

The Myth of Linkage

“Of all the policy myths that have kept us from making real progress in the Middle East, one stands out for its impact and longevity: the idea that if only the Palestinian conflict were solved, all the other Middle East conflicts would melt away,” assert Dennis Ross and David Makovsky. This false narrative, in other words, is that by “ending the Arab-Israeli conflict is prerequisite to addressing the maladies of the Middle East. Solve it, and in doing so conclude all other conflicts. Fail, and instability – even war – will engulf the entire region.” Ross served as director of policy planning in the State Department for George H. W. Bush, as President Bill Clinton’s Middle East Peace envoy, and as a special assistant to the president under Barack Obama. Makovsky is director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy Project on the Middle East Peace Process.   [9]

As unfortunate as the dispute has become, Ross and Makovsky conclude, it has not “destabilize[d] the Middle East. There have been two Palestinian Intifadas, or uprisings, including one that lasted from 2000 to 2005 and claimed the lives of 4,000 Palestinians and 1,000 Israelis – but not a single Arab leader had been toppled or a single regime destabilized as a result. It has remained a local conflict, contained in a small geographical area. Yet the argument of linkage endures to this day, and with powerful promoters.” [10]

At first, linkage was exploited as leverage to pressure the U.S. to distance itself from Israel. Arab leaders then fostered the notion that America had the responsibility to resolve the conflict. If the U.S. did not assume this role, it would endanger relations with the Arab world. [11] For President Jimmy Carter, the settlements were “a serious obstacle to peace” since Israel had signaled the country’s determination to “make the military occupation permanent,” which encouraged other Israelis to establish additional settlements. [12] He went so far as to claim the outcome of this conflict “will shape the future of Israel; it may also determine the prospects for peace in the Middle East—and perhaps the world.” [13]

Linkage Supported by Leading Politicians and Experts on the Middle East

Among a number of leaders promoting this false myth were former National Security Advisor James Jones, [14] and Robert Malley, Special Assistant to the President and White House Coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf Region, who previously directed the Middle East Program at the Soros-funded International Crisis Group. [15]

According to Landler, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shared Obama’s beliefs that the “settlements were pernicious,” since they eclipsed the possibility of establishing a sustainable Palestinian Arab state. When asked if Israel had to stop building new settlements, but continue construction within existing settlements, an idea known as natural growth, she went beyond Obama’s guidelines when she said: “Not some settlements, not outposts, not natural growth exceptions.” [16]

Her dismissive attitude toward Israel is summed up in a remark she made to Jake Sullivan, Deputy Assistant to Obama and National Security Advisor to U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. While en route to the annual meeting of AIPAC in Washington, D.C., Netanyahu told reporters of Israeli government’s determination not to capitulate to America on settlements. When Sullivan informed Clinton that he learned the Israelis “sounded a bit cocky,” she responded, “They always sound cocky. In the air on the ground.” She calls Netanyahu by his nickname Bibi; “often it was attached to the f-word.” [17]

James A. Baker III, who served as Secretary of State in the George H. W. Bush administration, complained that “American efforts to generate momentum were constantly hampered by the specter of Jewish settlements in the occupied territories.” Even Ronald Reagan, he said, viewed them as “an obstacle to peace.” President Bush held the “very strong belief that the settlements were simply wrong.” Brent Scowcroft, who worked with Baker as U.S. National Security Advisor under President Bush, believed that “Israel was the main stumbling block to peace.” [18]

Madeleine Albright, the first woman to become the U.S. Secretary of State, claimed that “softening Arab hostility” toward Israel “would have been simpler had some Israeli leaders not asserted the right to govern the West Bank and Gaza completely and permanently.”[19]

Tony Blair, who served as a Prime Minister of the UK from 1997 to 2007, and as official Envoy of the Quartet on the Middle East, believed in linkage. In May 2008, he said, “I have always taken the view that although the Israel-Palestine issue is not the cause of extremism, resolving it is a major part of helping with the boarder strategy.” [20]

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also claimed the Palestinian Arab issue to be “at the core of a lot of problems in the region.” She said, “There is no substitute for trying to get to the place where the Palestinians finally have their state and the Israelis finally have a neighbor who can live in peace and security with them.” The “Israeli-Palestinian track is extremely important” because it “unlocks the key” to “further engagement between the Arabs and the Israelis.” [21]

Rice said that throughout the administration of George W. Bush, announcements of new settlements by the Israeli government “were a constant problem.”  At times, they were publicized even when construction would not begin for years. Often they were a restatement of previous commitments made to placate a particular coalition constituency. “But they were always disruptive and provocative, reminding the world of Israel’s controversial settlement activity. And in the context of the violence in 2001, the announcement was even more toxic. Palestinians and Israelis were at war.” [22]

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said, “What we do believe is that the … the lack of progress in the peace process has provided political ammunition to our adversaries in the Middle East and in the region, and that progress in this arena will enable us not only to perhaps get others to support the peace process, but also support us in our efforts to try and impose effective sanctions against Iran.”  [23]

Recognizing the Fatal Flaw in subordinating all Regional Issues to the Israeli-Palestinian Arab conflict 

Two Americans, who recognized what Elliot Abrams calls the fatal flaw in subordinating all regional issues to the Israeli-Palestinian Arab conflict, are former Vice President Dick Cheney and former American Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton.  Abrams, who served as deputy assistant to the president and deputy national security advisor in the administration of President George W. Bush, where he supervised U.S. policy in the Middle East for the White House, warned that linkage ignores Arab and Israel assessments of their own situations, which leads the U.S. to attribute greater importance to Arab officials’ statements about the conflict than to what is happening in their countries.  [24]

Dick Cheney did not believe that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian Arab crisis would “take the steam out of the terrorist threat.” Unlike Prime Minster Blair, Cheney knew that if the conflict ceased tomorrow, “the terrorists would simply find another rationale for their continuing jihad.” [25]

Given the daily terrorist threats Israel experiences from Hamas, Hezbollah and other Islamic terrorist organizations, John Bolton, former ambassador to the UN, believes “there is no rationale for the U.S. to pressure Israel into ‘peace agreements’ with its remaining Arab neighbors, or to believe that ‘dialogue’ on such issues will have any material effect on the Middle East’s numerous other conflicts.”[26]

Abrams recognized that while Arab populations and Arab governments are concerned about the Palestinian Arab/ Israel conflict, it is one of many issues that matters to them. The Arab Spring revolts in 2011 should have dispelled the myth that Arab politics revolves around Israel and the Palestinian Arabs. What occurred in Libya, Tunisia, Iraq and Syria was not about Israel. The proof is that during the Clinton and Bush administrations they had friendlier relations with Israel than Obama has, and at the same time had closer relations with Saudi Arabia as well.  [27]

The centrality of the peace process had become a religion with its own dogma long before Aaron David Miller, former advisor to Republican and Democratic Secretaries of State on Arab-Israeli negotiations, (1978-2003), arrived at the state department. “These tenets endured and prospered,” he said “even while the realities on which they were based had begun to change.” The idea that there is a simple solution to protecting American interests in the region is completely wrong. [28]

Apparently Miller did not always possess this insight. Martin Indyk, former U.S. ambassador to Israel and peace envoy, writes that Miller and Daniel Kurtzer, who worked as Dennis Ross’s deputy in the office of Special Middle East Coordinator (SMEC), and who later served as American ambassador to Israel and Egypt, “felt keenly that the United States could not hope to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict unled it treated the ‘core’ Israeli-Palestinian problem first. [29]

When Israel decided to build settlements, in what the Americans considered a controversial part east Jerusalem, out of concern it would destroy any possibility of creating a two-state solution, Kurtzer complained, “This is not just another few houses in Jerusalem or another hilltop in the West Bank. This is one of the most sensitive areas of territory, and I would hope the United States will lay down the law.” [30]

Richard N. Haas, president of the Council on Foreign Relations agreed with Abrams that if the conflict ended, terrorism would not abate. The terrorists are driven by their desire to purge the Arabian Peninsula of infidels. Their ultimate objective is to spread Islam similar to the system practiced in the seventh-century. They may openly espouse solidarity with Palestinian Arab goals, but they do not want a Palestinian Arab state. [31]

The power struggles between the Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds in Iraq, America’s involvement in Afghanistan and Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons are not relevant to the conflict either.  When Arab governments worked with the U.S. to expel Saddam Hussein from Kuwait during the Gulf War, they did so because it was in their best interests. The lack of diplomatic progress would not preclude collaboration against an aggressive Iran. Equally significant, a solution would not answer questions of political stability and legitimacy within the Arab world. [32]

Overstating the benefits of resolving the conflict could lead to distorting American foreign policy Haas adds. Conferring more importance than the dispute warrants, creates impatience, and invites the U.S. government to embrace unrealistic policies that are doomed to fail. [33]

Settlements in Judea and Samaria

Israeli settlements, which are Jewish communities, built on land captured from Jordan during the Six Day War became the first hurdle in negotiations. More than half a million Jews live in Judea and Samaria, which is beyond the armistice lines, known as the “green line.” It is not a political border, has no legal status and does not influence future negotiations about borders. The line is merely where the soldiers were positioned in 1949 when the cease-fire began. The decision also applied to the eastern part of Jerusalem, which the U.S. viewed would be the capital of the future Palestinian Arab state. [34]

Since the Reagan administration, the objection to settlements has been a political problem. Obama jeopardized a political solution by transforming it to a legal issue by using the words “legitimate” or “legitimacy,” complicating any political discussions. [26]   When Secretary of State John Kerry linked the upsurge in violence to frustration with the settlements, Ross said “It was a mistake to say that. It was a mistake because it implies that if tomorrow there were no settlements, this issue would be solved.” [35]

 “There is a remarkable continuity over the concern that too close a relationship with Israel will harm US ties with the Arabs, so there is always a constituency in each administration that feels the US needs to create distance with Israel to gain responsiveness from the Arab world,” observed Dennis Ross.

Ross confirms that those criticizing Obama of being reflexively partial to the Palestinian Arabs are correct.  He “tends to look at Israel through a lens that is more competitive, more combative, that sees Israel more in problematic terms.”  Obama’s antagonistic attitude to the George W. Bush administration represented a calculated effort to distance his administration from Israel: “When the president comes in, he thinks we have a major problem with Arabs and Muslims. And he sees that as a function of the Bush administration — an image, fairly or not, that Bush was at war with Islam. So one of the ways that he wants to show that he’s going to have an outreach to the Muslim world is that he’s going to give this speech in Cairo. So he wants to reach out and show that the US is not so close to the Israelis, which he thinks also feeds this perception. That’s why there’s an impulse to do some distancing from Israel, and that’s why the settlement issue is seized in a way.” [37]

Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, George Herbert Walker Bush and Obama also pursed a somewhat similar strategy. This approach did not produce any results, in some cases American relations deteriorated, especially in the Eisenhower, Nixon and Obama administrations. Little, if any, thought had been given as to how the Arabs leaders might react to this distancing.  [38]

The appointment of former Senate majority leader George J. Mitchell (D-Maine) as special envoy to the Middle East on January 22, 2009, assured Israel that settlements would be seen as a fundamental impediment to peace. A settlement freeze would be a precondition for peace negotiations, which had never been a requirement under previous administrations.  Even during the period of Camp David Summit in 2000 and after the Annapolis meeting in 2007, Jews continued to build communities in Judea and Samaria. [39]

Significantly, when John Kerry (D-Mass.) served as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he explained the futility of this approach when he said in April 2011, “I was opposed to the prolonged effort on the settlements in a public way because I never thought it would work and, in fact, we have wasted a year and a half on something that for a number of reasons was not achievable.” Furthermore, the demand placed Mahmoud Abbas in a delicate position. He could not insist on less than Washington had from the Israelis. If Obama mandated a total freeze as a precondition to negotiations, Abbas would have to acquiesce, even if he disagreed with the strategy. Abbas told Newsweek the Obama administration had led him up a tree and then “removed the ladder.” [40]

Mitchell, a seasoned diplomat with a reputation of being “capable of untangling the world’s knottiest disputes,” had expressed his views on the settlements in a 2001 international investigatory commission  that examined the cause of violence of the Al-Aqsa Intifada that began in 2000. [41]

Mitchell believed that “A cessation of Palestinian-Israeli violence will be particularly hard to sustain unless [Israel] freezes all settlement construction activity. Settlement activities must not be allowed to undermine the restoration of calm and the resumption of negotiations.”  [42]

On his “listening tour” of Arab capitals, Mitchell did not find any Arab leader willing to assist Obama securing peace with Israel. They did demand that Israel begin a settlement freeze on land that one day would become part of a Palestinian Arab state. [35] (Wilson, “Obama searches for Middle East peace,” op.cit; Clinton, Hard Choices, op.cit. 263-266). Mark Landler reported that some former administration officials believe that Obama “over-interpreted” Mitchell’s findings. Arab leaders were more concerned about Iran’s nuclear threat than the effect continued construction of the settlements would have on the peace process. But Mitchell’s message about the settlements resonated with Obama’s biases. He wanted to demonstrate to the Arabs that pressuring Israel could change the country’s behavior. [43] (

Obama was so intent in ensuring the Israelis complied with his ultimatum, he even threatened Netanyahu, according to Israel Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren: “Face-to-face, I later heard, Obama had demanded that Netanyahu cease all building not only in the territories but also in the disputed areas of Jerusalem. ‘Not a single brick,’ the president purportedly said. ‘I know how to deal with people who oppose me.’” [44]

In a meeting with then Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg, Oren exposed the hypocrisy of this policy.  “Under the administration’s policy,” he pointed out, “a Jew could only build his home in certain Jerusalem neighborhoods but an Arab could build anywhere—even illegally—without limit. In America,” he said, that’s called discrimination.” What Obama did not know, or, perhaps did not want to recognize, is that an Israeli prime minister does not have any more authority to halt construction in Jerusalem than an American president has in Chicago. [45]

Though Obama viewed any Israeli construction in areas once under Jordanian control, a “provocation and an obstacle to peace,” Netanyahu made it clear in a speech on March 22, 2010 at the AIPAC conference in Washington, D.C. that “Jerusalem is not a settlement. It is our capital. In Jerusalem, my government has maintained the policies of all Israeli governments since 1967, including those led by Golda Meir, Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Rabin…. The Jewish people were building Jerusalem 3,000 years ago and the Jewish people are building Jerusalem today….It’s only under Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem that religious freedom for all faiths has been guaranteed.” [46]

Obsession with Settlements

The obsession with settlements, highlighted in the media [47] obscured a basic fact that American administrations refused to accept—the conflict is not about the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.  As Elliot Abrams has shown, construction in the communities in Judea and Samaria is not a crucial matter, and construction in additional areas has been marginal. At Camp David in 2000, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered Yasir Arafat 94 percent of Judea and Samaria; ten years later, Ehud Olmert offered Abbas 93.6 percent with a one-to-one land swap.  In other words, expansion has not significantly reduced the land available for establishing a Palestinian Arab state. [48]

Abrams said that there “has been no deliberate policy or government push to expand settlements; on the contrary, there have been official constraints. The government has officially approved only 9,197 residential construction permits in the entirety of Judea and Samaria (i.e., the entire West Bank including the major blocs, excluding Jerusalem) in the six years since Netanyahu took office in 2009. Approximately two-thirds of those units approved were built inside the major blocs. That means only 500 or so units were approved each year for construction outside the settlement blocs.” [49]

Bernard Lewis added that “If the issue is about the size of Israel, then we have a straightforward border problem, like Alsace-Lorraine or Texas. That is to say, not easy, but possible to solve in the long run, and to live with in the meantime.  If … the issue is the existence of Israel, then clearly it is insoluble by negotiation. There is no compromise … between existing and not existing, and no conceivable government of Israel is going to negotiate on whether that country should or should not exist. [50]

Palestinian Arab intransigence did deter Netanyahu from agreeing to a two-state solution under the right circumstances. In his speech at Bar-Ilan University on June 14, 2009, Netanyahu approved in principle to implementing a two-state solution, when he declared: “In the heart of our Jewish Homeland, now lives a large population of Palestinians. We do not want to rule over them…. In my vision of peace, there are two free peoples living side by side in this small land, with good neighborly relations and mutual respect, each with its flag, anthem and government, with neither one threatening its neighbor’s security and existence.” Before a real peace agreement could be reached, the Palestinian Arabs would have to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, and the Arab state would have to be demilitarized. [51]

The Palestinian Arabs have never hidden their refusal to accept the existence of the state of Israel or to establish a separate Arab state. In a rare admission in an international forum, Mahmoud Abbas delivered a speech to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on October 28, 2015, in which he denies Israel’s right to exist in any part of the land of Israel. “Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen,’ he asked “haven’t you wondered: For how long will this protracted Israeli occupation of our land last? After 67 years [i.e., Israel’s creation], how long? Do you think it can last, and that it benefits the Palestinian people?” The implication is that all of the land of Israel as being “an occupation” and legitimately should not “last.” [52]

In the last interview before his death, Faysal Al-Husseini, Palestinian Authority Minister for Jerusalem Affairs told the Egyptian daily, Al-Arabi, the ultimate objective of the Palestinian Arabs “is the liberation of Palestine from the river to the sea…” The “entire land is an Islamic Waqf which cannot be bought or sold, and it is impossible to remain silent while someone is stealing it …” The Oslo Accords are a Trojan Horse. [53]

This goal has not changed. A poll taken by the Watan Center for Studies and Research in late 2015 found that 48 percent of the Palestinian Arabs interviewed assert the real aim of the “intifada” is to “liberate all of Palestine.” This means the destruction of the Jewish state. Just 11 percent of those polled believed the goal of the “intifada” should be to “liberate” only those territories captured by Israel in 1967. Another 12 percent said the insurrection should be pressure Israel to free the prisoners in her jails. [54]

The use of violence is justified by 75 percent. More than 44 percent condone firearms against Israel; 18 percent advocate using knives to murder Jews, and another 14 percent support Palestinian Arabs use stones. This disputes Abbas’s assertion that the Palestinian Arabs seek a “peaceful and popular” uprising. [55]

Another significant conclusion is that 72 percent of the respondents want the “intifada” to continue terror attacks against Israeli civilians and soldiers. They want this because their leaders and journalists assure them that those who kill Jews are “heroes” and “martyrs” who will have streets, squares, schools and tournaments named after them. [56]

None of the interviewees complained about suffering from “despair and frustration,” or the absence of a “political horizon.” They had no objections to “settlements” or “poor living conditions.”  A majority believe that Israel can — and must — be obliterated. They are not, as Palestinian Arabs leaders allege interested in a two-state solution. [57]

The PA National Security Forces routinely publish pictures of Israel as “Palestine” on its Facebook page.  Israeli cities of Ashkelon, Haifa and Acre were recently labeled as “occupied.” Abbas also sought to demonize Israel: “[The] holy sites which have been desecrated every other second again and again for seven decades now, under an occupation that does not quit killing, torturing, looting and imprisoning…” [58]

Playing the perennial aggrieved victim to deflect attention away from his own incitement, Abbas pleaded for “strong and decisive intervention” from the defuse the wave of violence. Abbas’s remarks were swiftly denounced by the Israeli Foreign Ministry, which said in a statement, “President Abbas chose once more the way of propaganda and incitement, instead of the dialogue proposed by Israel.” [59]

The media does not report that incitement is a key element in PA schools. A July 2015 report by the Palestinian Media Watch Report entitled “Palestinian Authority Education A Recipe for Hate and Terror,” found, “The PA controlled educational structures are actively ensuring that the conflict, terror and war will continue into the next generation.  Children are taught to see Jews as their enemy and the enemy of Allah. Jews are said to be cursed by Allah, descended from monkeys and pigs and “the most evil of creations.” Children who recite these messages on children’s programs are applauded, not corrected….The PA still profoundly poisons the minds of Palestinian children. Palestinian Authority education is a recipe for lasting hate and terror.” [60]

In spite of the overwhelming evidence that the Palestinian Arabs never had any intention of signing a peace agreement, Israel is continually held responsible for failing to reach an accord with them. Israelis who sought peace through agreements, goodwill gestures, and giving up Israeli land for peace would reduce hostility and violence.

Israel is expected to relinquish land won in wars she did not initiate or want and release large number of terrorists, many of whom murdered Jews.  And what is required of the Palestinian Arabs? Uzi Arad, who served as the National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of Israel, and the head of the Israeli National Security Council, said he could not “remember a single concession of the Palestinians since 1994.” [61]

When Jimmy Carter initiated the negotiations leading to the March 1979 Egypt–Israel Peace Treaty, which established diplomatic relationships between the two nations, Carter expected Israel to make most of the concessions, even though Israel was the victor and the Arabs were the defeated. When Begin refused to terms that would endanger the security of the Jewish state, Carter said “Begin was becoming an insurmountable obstacle to further progress. At one point, Carter told Begin, “peace in the Middle East was in his hands, that he had a unique opportunity to either bring it into being or kill it, and that he understood that the Arabs generally wanted peace, particularly Sadat.”  [62]

The pressure on Israel is unrelenting. At rally in Tel-Aviv commemorating the 20th anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, former President Bill Clinton told the crowd of Israelis “The next step… will be determined by whether you decide that Rabin was right, that you have to share your future with your neighbors, that you have to stand for peace, that the risk for peace isn’t as severe as the risk of walking away from it. We are praying that you will make the right decision.” [63]

At Haaretz’s Second Peace Conference in November 2015, Martin Indyk, said that an immediate settlement freeze would enable President Abbas to be a peace partner “tomorrow.” He urged Israelis stop viewing themselves as victims, because despite their history of victimhood, Israel is a strong state in every way.  [64]

This pressure can further be seen in an interview with Ben Rhodes conducted by Barak Ravid, the diplomatic correspondent for Haaretz. Rhodes, a White House Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting, who played a dominant role in shaping Obama’s foreign policy, is still focused on the settlements as a major cause of the stalemate. “For Israel, the more there is settlement construction, the more it undermines the ability to achieve that peace and the more Israel will only have to be defending its settlement policies in the years to come” Rhodes observed. “That’s a reality. It is not something the U.S. or the international community has chosen to make an issue. It’s an issue because there are settlements being built in the West Bank. That’s not going to go away — that’s going be an issue of international concern. There is no alternative that people can just forget this issue and say, ‘You know what, it is just going to work itself out.’ It is only going to get more difficult over time,” he explained. [65]

Rhodes understood there was little chance of achieving a negotiated two-state solution before Obama left office. In urging an end of the violence, he expected Obama and Netanyahu to discuss “what steps everybody can contribute to providing that atmosphere, obviously reducing the tensions and the violence ….and maintaining the viability of the two-state solution for the future.” [66]

In an interview with Atlantic journalist Jeffrey Goldberg, Obama blamed Netanyahu for failing to implement a two-state solution because the prime minister, he said “is too fearful and politically paralyzed to do so.” [67] The New Times echoed this view in an editorial criticizing Netanyahu for not advancing the peace process.  “Mr. Netanyahu has never shown a serious willingness on that front,” the paper claimed, “as is made clear by his expansion of Israeli settlements, which reduce the land available for a Palestinian state.” [68]

If the objective had been to halt the bloodshed asked Bret Stephens, foreign-affairs columnist and the deputy editorial page editor of The Wall Street Journal, why hadn’t any senior Western leader demanded Abbas correct the record about the Al Aqsa Mosque. “Palestinian tantrums,” Stephen’s points out, “are sanctified tantrums. The violence they breed might be condemned, but the narrative on which they rest has the status of holy writ. It is no more to be questioned than the Quran is to be burned.” [69]

Stephens’s summed up Rhode’s misguided understanding of the conflict and his specious moral equivalence:  “How sweet it would be if all Israel had to do to make peace was dismantle its settlements. How much sweeter if the American president would find less to fault with an Israeli government’s housing policies than a Palestinian political culture still so intent on killing Jews. If Mr. Obama wants to know why he’s so disliked by Israelis, there’s the reason.” [70]

In light of Palestinian Arab intransigence and hostility, Jonathan Tobin, senior online editor of Commentary magazine, asks “Why won’t Obama and The New York Times accept these facts? Is it because doing so would require acknowledging they have misjudged Netanyahu and the Palestinian Arabs, and were wrong about the settlements as an impediment to peace. “When given a choice between their fantasies and dealing with the reality of the conflict, the administration and its fans always choose the fantasy.  Seen from that perspective, it’s clear it doesn’t really matter what Netanyahu does. Nothing he or the Palestinians can do is capable of forcing the president to give up his myths about the Middle East. So long as that is true, why should Israel’s enemies give up theirs?”[71]

Exposing the Myth of Linkage Footnotes

[1] Scott Wilson, “Obama searches for Middle East peace,” The Washington Post (July 14, 2012); “Remarks by the President at Cairo University, 6-04-09,” The White House (June 4, 2009); Jeffrey Goldberg, “The Obama Doctrine, The Atlantic (April 2016); for examples of how this has negatively affected the relationship, see Seth Lipsky, “Is America Really an Honest Broker in the Peace Process?” Haaretz (March 12, 2014); Jeffrey Herf, “Trash talk diplomacy and US-Israel relations,” The Times of Israel (February 1, 2015).

[2] “Obama tells Al Arabiya peace talks should resume,” DUBAI (January 27, 2009).

[3] “Remarks by the President at Cairo University, 6-04-09,” op.cit.

[4] Ibid; Although the term “occupation” is not the subject of this essay, it is a fundamental issue in this conflict. Before reaching conclusions about Israel’s right to remain in Judea and Samaria, one should review the following sources:



C.  Arthur J. Goldberg, “Resolution 242 After Twenty Years,” the National Committee on American Foreign Policy (2002).

D.; Security Council Resolution 242 According to its Drafters CAMERA (January 15, 2007),

E. Howard Grief, The Legal Foundation and Borders of Israel under International Law (Jerusalem: Mazo Publishers, 2008).

F. Allen Z. Hertz, “Aboriginal Rights of the Jewish People,” The Times of Israel (November 26, 2014); Allen Z. Hertz, “Aboriginal rights of the Jewish People,” The Times of Israel (February 18, 2014).

[5] Dennis Ross, Doomed to Succeed: The U.S.-Israel Relationship from Truman to Obama (New York:  Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015), 346.

[6] ibid; Hillary Rodham Clinton, Hard Choices (New York: Simon Schuster, 2014), 264; Michael Oren, Ally, My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide (New York: Random House, 2015), 76.

[7] Mark Landler, Alter Egos: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and the Twilight Struggle Over American Power, (New York: Radom House, 2016), 128-129.

[8] Goldberg, “The Obama Doctrine,” op.cit; Philip Carl Salzman, Culture and Conflict in the Middle East (Amherst New York: Humanity Books, 2008), 10-12, 66-68, 98-100, 102-108.

[9] Dennis Ross and David Makovsky, Myths, Illusions, and Peace: Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East (New York: Penguin Books, 2010), 12-14; James A. Baker, III, and Lee H. Hamilton, Co-Chairs, The Iraq Study Group Report (New York: Vintage Books, 2006), 44, 54-58; Lawrence Freedman and Efraim Karsh, The Gulf Conflict, 1990-1991: Diplomacy and War in the New World Order (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1993), 101-102.

[10] Ibid. 13-14.

[11] Ibid.14.

[12] Jimmy Carter, Keeping Faith: Memoirs of a President (New York: Bantam Books, 1982), 290-291.

[13] Jimmy Carter, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid (New York:  Simon & Schuster, 2006), 69, 216.

[14] Ben Smith, “Trouble at the ‘epicenter,” Politico (November 6, 2009); Tony Badran, “America’s ’big game,’” NOW (April 27, 2010); Roger Cohen, “Beating the Middle East’s black hole,” Common Ground News Service (April 29, 2010); Mark Perry, “The Petraeus Briefing: Biden’s Embarrassment is not the Whole Story,” Foreign Policy (March 14, 2010).

[15]  “Expert: Protests In The Region Linked,” NPR (January 29, 2011); Jonathan S. Tobin, “Robert Malley and the Shift to Appeasement,” Commentary  (February 18, 2014); Interviewee: Robert Malley, International Crisis Group interviewer: Bernard Gwertzman, Visiting Fellow, “Palestinian Unity Government Opens Way to Possible Agreement With Israel,” Council on Foreign Relations (February 14, 2007); Robert Malley, Mideast Prism Changed,” The Los Angeles Times (September 20, 2001); Alex Sufian, “The Robert Malley – Arafat Connection,” CAMERA (February 2, 2008); Ed Lasky, “Barack Obama’s Middle East Expert,” American Thinker (January 23, 2008); Jeff Dunetz, “Ed Lasky Responds to NY Times Puff Piece on Robert Malley,” The Lid (March 17, 2008).

[16] Landler, op.cit. 129, 138-139.

[17] Ibid.144-146.

[18] James A. Baker III, The Politics of Diplomacy: Revolution, War and Peace, 1989-1992 (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1995), 122-123,415.

[19] Madeleine Albright, Madam Secretary: A Memoir (Miramax Books, 2003), 289.

[20] Elliot Abrams, Tested By Zion (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 57; Tony Blair, A Journey: My Political Life (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010), 198; Barak Ravid, “Tony Blair: Arab states will normalize ties with Israel if Netanyahu agrees to negotiate with Palestinians,” Haaretz (May 24, [21]

[21] Glenn Kessler, “Rice Cautions Israel on Syria,” The Washington Post (May 30, 2007); in his book, Innocent Abroad: An Intimate Account of American Peace Diplomacy in the Middle East (New York: Simon & Shuster, 2009), 24, Martin Indyk, former U.S. ambassador to Israel, notes that Rice had no experts in the State Department to help guide her when she decided to engage in in the peace process in 2007. He said the Middle East experts who had worked with President Clinton were “either dismissed or sidelined” by George W. Bush or General Colin Powell.

[22] Condoleezza Rice, No Higher Honor: A Memoir of My Years in Washington (New York: Crown Publishers, 2011), 55.

[23] Laura Rozen, “Why Gates rolled out the red carpet for Ehud Barak,” Politico (April 28, 2010); The idea of linkage has been a problem for quite some time,  Akiva Eldar, “James Baker’s advice for Obama on forging Middle East peace,” Haaretz (March 18, 2010); Brent Scowcroft, “Getting the Middle East Back on Our Side,” The New York Times (January 4, 2007); Zbigniew Brzezinski, “Face Reality,” The New Republic (May 28, 2004); Carter, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, op.cit.12-13, 17; Nathan Gardels, “Jimmy Carter takes on Israel’s Apartheid Policies and the Pro-Israeli Lobby in the US,” Huff Post  (May 25, 2011); Daniel Pipes, “Explaining Obama’s Fixation with Israel,” National Review (March 19, 2013); Marwan Muasher, The Arab Center: The Promise of Moderation (New Haven, Connecticut, 2008), 265-267.

[24] Abrams, Tested by Zion, op.cit. 306-307.

[25] Dick Cheney, In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir (New York: Threshold Editions, 2011), 373.

[26] John Bolton, Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations (New York: Threshold Editions, 2008), 439.

[27] Abrams, Tested by Zion, op.cit. 306-307.

[28] Aaron David Miller, “The False Religion of Mideast Peace,” Foreign Policy (April 19, 2010); Aaron David Miller, The Much Too Promised Land: America’s Elusive Search for Arab-Israeli Peace (New York: Bantam Books, 2008), 27-28.

[29] Indyk, op.cit. 24; Daniel C. Kurtzer, Scott B. Lasensky, William B. Quandt, Steven L. Spiegel, and Shibley Z. Telhami, The Peace Puzzle: America’s Quest for Arab-Israeli Peace, 1989–2011 (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 2013),5-6,9.

[30] Jodi Rudoren and Mark Landler, “Housing Move in Israel Seen as Setback for a Two-State Plan,” The New York Times (November 20, 2012).

[31] (Richard N. Haas, “The Palestine Peace Distraction,” The Wall Street Journal (April 26, 2010); William McCants, The ISIS Apocalypse: The History, Strategy, and Doomsday Vision of the Islamic State (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2015).

[32] Haas, op.cit; Ruth Eglash, “How two Red Sea islands shed light on secret relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia,” The Washington Post (April 13, 2016).

[33] Ibid; Lee Smith, Linked In,” Tablet (May 5, 2010).

[34] Oren, Ally, op.cit. 76, 79; Thomas L. Friedman, “Obama on the World,” The New York Times (August 8, 2014); Alan Baker, “The Fallacy of the “1967 Borders” – No Such Borders Ever Existed,” Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (December 21, 2010); Yehuda Z. Blum, “The Missing Reversioner: Reflections on the Status of Judea and Samaria,” Israel Law Review Volume 3 Number 2 (1968):279-301; “Clinton Derides ‘Illegitimate’ Israeli Settlements as U.S. Vetoes Palestinian Resolution,” The Blaze (February 18, 2011).

[35] Eric Cortellessa, “Dennis Ross: US must move from distance to detente with Israel,” The Times of Israel (October 27, 2015).

[36] Cortellessa, op.cit.

[37] Jennifer Rubin, “Dennis Ross: Critics were right about Obama, Iran and Israel,” The Washington Post (October 28, 2015); Seth Lipsky, “The contrast between the statements made by President Obama and the State Department regarding the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state are troubling,” Haaretz (March 12, 2014).

[38] Ross, Doomed to Succeed, op.cit 393-395; “The U.S. quarrel with Israel,” The Washington Post (March 16, 2010).

[39] Efraim Karsh, Arafat’s War: The Man and His Battle for Israeli Conquest (New York, Grove Press, 2003), 159-174); see also Landler, op.cit.142-143.

[40] Elliot Abrams, “The Settlement Obsession,” Foreign Affairs (July 1, 2011); “Palestinian Leader Mahmoud Abbas’s Frustration with Obama,” Newsweek (April 4, 2011).

[41] Alex Altman, “Middle East Envoy George Mitchell,” TIME (January 22, 2009); Brian Whitaker “The Mitchell report,” theguardian (May 21, 2010); Wilson, “Obama searches for Middle East peace,” op.cit; George J. Mitchell, “Israeli-Palestinian peace is needed now: Israel is running out of time; Palestinians are running out of options,” The Boston Globe (September 8, 2014).

[42] George J. Mitchell, “Text of the Mitchell Report,” CSCA Web (May 6, 2001).

[43] Landler, op.cit.135; Peter Wallsten,” Allies of Palestinians see a friend in Obama,” The Los Angeles Times (April 10, 2008).

[44] Oren, Ally, op. cit. 64.

[45] Ibid.79, 82-83, 139; Ruth Lapidoth, “Jerusalem Some Legal Issues Jerusalem,” The Institute for Israel Studies Series number 415 (2011).

[46] Oren, Ally, op.cit. 133, 142-143; “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to AIPAC conference,” Haaretz (March 23, 2010).

[47] Jeffrey Goldberg, “The Crisis in U.S.-Israel Relations is officially Here,” The Atlantic (October 28, 2014); Jeffrey Goldberg, “Obama to Israel — Time Is Running Out,” Bloomberg View,” (March 2, 2014); Albright, Madam Secretary, op.cit. 289; Shlomo Ben-Ami, Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli-Arab Tragedy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006 ), 212;Thomas L. Friedman, “Telling Mideast Negotiators’ Have a Nice Life,’” The New York Times (October 28, 2015); Elliot Abrams, “The Settlement Obsession,” op.cit; Thomas L. Friedman, “ Baker Cites Israel For Settlements,”  The New York Times  (May 23, 1991); For an example of placing the onus on Israel while failing to accept Palestinian Arab refusal to accept Israel’s right to exist, see Natan Sachs, “Why Israel Waits Anti-Solutionism as a Strategy,” Foreign Affairs (October 20, 2015).

[48] Abrams, “The Settlement Obsession,” op.cit.

[49] Elliott Abrams and Uri Sadot, “Settling Settlements,” Foreign Affairs (April 16, 2015); an example of how Israel is blamed for intransigence, see Robert Malley and Hussein Agha, “Camp David: The Tragedy of Errors,” The New York Review of Books (August 9, 2001).

[50] Bernard Lewis, “On the Jewish Question,” The Wall Street Journal (November 26, 2007); Daniel Pipes, “Ending a Century of Palestinian Rejectionism,” The Washington Times (October 27, 2015); Letter, David Harris, “Two-State Progress,’ Foreign Affairs, (November/December 2015 Issue).

[51] “Full text of Netanyahu’s foreign policy speech at Bar Ilan,” Haaretz (June 14, 2009); Isabel Kershner, “Netanyahu Backs Palestinian State, With Caveats,” The New York Times (June 14, 2009).

[52] (“PA depicts a world without Israel: Denying Israel’s right to exist,” Palestinian Media Watch;Itamar Marcus, “Abbas says all of Israel is ‘occupation,’” Palestinian Media Watch (November 2, 2015); Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik, “All of Israel is “Palestine” according to Abbas’ National Security Forces and Governor of Ramallah,” Palestinian Media Watch (November 8, 2015); UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, official PA TV, (October 28, 2015); Eran Lerman, “The Palestinian Victimhood Narrative as an Obstacle to Peace,” BESA Center Perspectives Paper Number 309, (October 7, 2015); Jonathan D. Halevi, “The Palestinian Authority’s Responsibility for the Outbreak of the Second Intifada: Its Own Damning Testimony,” Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs  Number 594 (February 20, 2013).

[53] “Faysal Al-Husseini in his Last Interview: The Oslo Accords Were a Trojan Horse: The Strategic Goal is the Liberation of Palestine from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea,’” Special Dispatch No.236 MEMRI (July 6, 2001).Its Own Damning Testimony,” Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs Number 594 (February 20, 2013).

[54] Bassam Tawil, “Palestinians: The Real Goal of the Intifada,” Gatestone Institute (November 29, 2015).

[55] Ibid.

[56] Ibid.

[57] Ibid.

[58] Ibid; Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik, ”PA Security Forces greet followers on Facebook with photos of “occupied Jaffa,” “occupied Acre,” and “Hula Lake in occupied Palestine,” Palestinian Media Watch (June 10, 2015).

[59] Nick Cumming-Bruce, “Mahmoud Abbas Seeks U.N. ‘Protection’ for Palestinians,” The New York Times (October 28, 2015); David Horovitz, “President Abbas, tell your people to stop stabbing us,” The Times of Israel (November 1, 2015); another example of this deflection technique is an article by Saeb Erekat, the secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization. Saeb Erekat, “The Palestinian People Ask: Where Is Israel’s F.W. de Klerk?” Haaretz (November 6, 2015).

[60] Itamar Marcus, Nan Jacques Zilberdik and Alona Burger “Palestinian Authority Education A Recipe for Hate and Terror,” Palestinian Media Watch (July 12, 2015).

[61] Ariel Ben Solomon, “At confab, experts, former gov’t officials voice pessimism on Mideast peace talks,” The Jerusalem Post (March 3, 2014); Barak Ravid, “During meeting with Obama, Netanyahu to unveil new gestures toward Palestinians, Haaretz (November 8, 2015); Chemi Shalev, “Saudi Prince al-Faisal tells Haaretz: Desire for peace exists both in Gaza and Ramallah,” Haaretz (November 12, 20115); Dexter Filkins, “Shot in the Heart,” The New Yorker (October 26, 2015).

[62] Carter, Keeping Faith, op.cit. 312-313, 329; Zbigniew Brzezinski, Power and Principle: Memoirs of the National Security Adviser, 1977-1981 (New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1983), 83, 242-247; Kenneth W. Stein, “My Problem with Jimmy Carter’s Book,” Middle East Quarterly (Spring 2007):3-15; Kenneth W. Stein, Heroic Diplomacy: Sadat, Kissinger, Carter, Begin and the Quest for Arab-Israeli Peace (New York: Routledge, 1999).

[63] Ilan Lior, “Clinton at Rabin rally: Israelis must decide if they stand for peace,” Haaretz (October 31, 2015); Ross, Doomed to Succeed, op.cit. 390; Jonathan S. Tobin, “Sorry Bill, It’s Not Up to Israel,” Commentary (Nov. 1, 2015); Rory Jones, “Palestinian Officials Say Israel Must Seek Long-Term Solution to Wave of Violence,” The Wall Street Journal (November 8, 2015); Jay Solomon and Felicia Schwartz, “Netanyahu Seeks to Ease Strains With U.S. Democrats,” The Wall Street Journal (November 11, 2015); Ari Shavit, “The Big Freeze,” Haaretz (October 7, 2004).

[64] “MK Ayman Odeh at Israel Peace Conference: We need to free both Israelis and Palestinians from occupation, Haaretz (November 12, 2015).

[65] Barak Ravid, “Top Obama adviser to Haaretz: Israel to face growing pressure over settlements, peace process impasse,” Haaretz (November 9, 2015).

[66]  “On-the-Record Conference Call Previewing the Visit of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu,” the-press-office/2015/1/06 (November 6, 2015); “Ruth Sherlock, “White House gives up on Israeli-Palestinian two state solution deal,” The Telegraph (November 7, 2015).

[67] Jeffrey Goldberg, “The Obama Doctrine,” The Atlantic (April 2016); see also David Remnick, “Going The Distance,” The New Yorker (January 27, 2014).

[68] The Editorial Board, “Mr. Netanyahu’s Lost Opportunities,” The New York Times (March 14, 2016).

[69]Bret Stephens, “The Islamist Tantrum,” The Wall Street Journal (November 16, 2015); for some examples of how Palestinian Arabs are incited to violence, please see (“Columnist In PA Daily Praises Attacks In Israeli Cities, Slams U.S. For Condemning Them,” MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6350 (March 17, 2016); “On International Women’s Day, Palestinian ‘Al-Quds’ Daily Lionizes Terrorists As Paragons Of Palestinian Womanhood,” MEMRI Special Dispatch 6344 (March 10, 2016); “Palestinian Authority TV On Jaffa Stabbing: ‘Martyr’ Killed One U.S. Tourist, Wounded 12 ‘Settlers,’” MEMRI TV Clip No. 5373 (March 9, 2016); Bassam Tibi, The Challenge of Fundamentalism: Political Islam and the New World Disorder (Berkeley California: University of California Press, 2002),54-63.

[70] Bret Stephens, “Palestinian State of Denial,” The Wall Street Journal (November 9, 2015).

[71] Jonathan S. Tobin, “Why It Doesn’t Matter What Israel Does,” Commentary (March 15, 2016); Alan m. Dershowitz, “Obama’s Double Standard Toward Netanyahu,” Gatestone Institute (April 25, 2016).

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Dr. Alex Grobman is the senior resident scholar at the John C. Danforth Society and a member of the Council of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East. He has an MA and PhD in contemporary Jewish history from The Hebrew university of Jerusalem. He lives in Jerusalem.