By Ali Younes
During his current visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories, Vice President Joe Biden spoke to the Israelis of how the US and Israel are “inseparable” and that “there is no space between the United States and Israel when it comes to Israel’s security.”
Biden’s comments in Israel confirmed what has been a long standing Arab grievance against the US that it is in fact “partial” third party, when brokering negotiations which favor Israel against the Palestinians. This is, moreover, when the US is currently setting the stage for “proximity talks” between Israel and the Palestinians. The proximity talks mean that US envoy George Mitchell will act as an impartial third party, will be completely in charge of the talks, and will carry messages and draft the agreements between the two parties until an agreement is reached. Biden’s statement seems to have angered leaders in the Arab World and thus undermined the US credibility as it intends to start the indirect and proximity talks between Israel and Palestinians.
The statement was particularly surprising to the Palestinians who complained about the latest Israeli announcement of building two set of new 1200 settlement housing units in occupied Jerusalem and the West Bank. This announcement flew in the face of the visiting US vice president and US special envoy George Mitchell. Later in the day, the office of the vice President here in Washington issued a strong statement “condemning” Israel for building those housing units calling the Israeli move as “ the kind step that undermines the trust we need right now”
There is; however, a stark contrast between the two statements of Mr. Biden which might be a clue that indicates the purpose of Biden’s trip to Israel. It was obvious; the Israeli perspective holds that Biden wanted to open a “new page between Israel and the Obama administration” as reported by the Israeli press yesterday. Regional analysts point that President Obama has very low approval ratings in Israel which might be part of the reasons he sent his vice president to Israel.
Biden’s strong words of assuring the Israeli leaders of the US commitment to Israel and speaking out more forcefully against Iran and its nuclear ambitions; can be understood as an effort by the Obama’s administration to stop Israel from taking a unilateral step of attacking Iran. For not attacking Iran prematurely, Arab observers; therefore, explain the muffled US reaction toward Israel’s settlement violations in the past year.
Furthermore, President Obama is facing tough challenges from the Republican Party here at home with many of his domestic issues are still on hold or ending up reversing his policy positions on it. sending Biden to Israel with this kind of tough talks on Iran and the unwavering US commitments to Israel maybe one way to assure the Israel backers in Congress that he is not an anti Israel after all.
Biden words; however, might have created the perfect opportunity for the opposition in the Arab World and Iran to reiterate their claim that the US will never be an honest broker in the Middle East despite assurances of otherwise from the new occupant in the white House.
President Obama may have created so much goodwill and high expectations in the Arab World after he became president; this, in turn, empowered those in the region who have stacked up all of their cards with the US hoping to create a Palestinian state and end the conflict between Arabs and Israel. A year later, there is a growing feeling of disillusionment with the Obama administration among the pro-US camp. This is quite so evident when nothing has moved forward on the peace front after a year of fruitless Mitchell’s shuttle diplomacy.
As for Obama, getting bogged down in steep domestic issues, two wars to manage, preventing Iran from going nuclear, and an upcoming mid-term congressional elections will only make the Middle East conflict a distant priority.
– Ali Younes is a writer and Middle East analyst based in Washington DC. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: email@example.com.