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NOLAN FINLEY

Finley: Netanyahu is not the problem, Obama is

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

As soon as election returns confirmed Benjamin Netanyahu would remain Israel's prime minister, the spin from the White House and its acolytes was that a peace deal with the Palestinians is now impossible.

How convenient for a president who loathes Netanyahu and whose support for Israel has always been suspect.

The characterization of Netanyahu as the impediment to peace is absurd. It stems from suggestions he made on the campaign trail that he no longer supports a two-state solution, a position he backed away from after the polls closed. If anyone should understand that politicians say one thing to get elected and do another once in office, it's President Barack Obama.

No matter what happened in last week's elections, peace would have remained a long-shot, and for the same reason as always: The Israelis do not have a partner in peacemaking.

The Palestinians have a dysfunctional, fractured government that includes the Hamas terrorist group. Hamas is ideologically opposed to a two-state solution; it remains dedicated to the destruction of Israel.

Rather than accept the reality that the loss of some territory is the inevitable consequence of the Arab world's failed drive to push Israel into the sea, the Palestinians want a return to pre-1967 borders, a concession Israel can't make without displacing a large percentage of its population. And they demand as well the right of all Palestinians who left Israel to return to their old homes. That, of course, would destroy the Jewish state.

The Palestinians have repeatedly walked away from peace deals. And yet now Netanyahu is somehow to blame for the failure to achieve an agreement.

Obama has bungled Middle East policy from the get-go. His initial conditioning of a resumption in talks on a moratorium on West Bank settlement activity established a barrier to bargaining that had never been in place before, and one the Palestinians did not demand themselves.

His embrace of the pre-1967 rhetoric and his open feud with Netanyahu signaled to Israel's enemies a weakening of U.S. support for its only true ally in the Middle East, and served as a disincentive to compromise.

Now the president is saying that in light of Netanyahu's campaign statements, the United States is reassessing its options in terms of Israel.

Surely Obama recognizes the danger of that remark. It provides confirmation of the break in what has been an unshakeable relationship. Will the U.S. leave Israel to the mercy of its United Nations haters? The statement makes Israel more vulnerable at a time of chaos, and could embolden an attack from the outside, or another round of Palestinian terrorism.

Obama has always struggled to camouflage his disdain for Israel. His views of the Middle East conflict are informed by the faculty lounge, where Israel has few friends.

Netanyahu has given him excuse to drop the pretense. This president is not a friend of Israel. His actions in office have driven the Israelis and Palestinians further apart.

And now he is negotiating a nuclear arms deal with Iran that could place the survival of the Jewish state in doubt.

The obstacles to peace in the Middle East sit in Washington and Ramallah, not Tel Aviv. This a very frightening moment for Israel.

nfinley@detroitnews.com

(313)222-2064

Follow Nolan Finley at detroitnews.com/finley, on Twitter at nolanfinleydn, on Facebook at nolanfinleydetnews and watch him at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays on "MiWeek" on Detroit Public TV, Channel 56.