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Government Relations: January 2010 Archives

APN Legislative Round-Up for the Week Ending January 29, 2010

1.  Senate Passes Iran Sanctions Bill - S. 2799 
2.  Text of Senate floor "discussion" of S. 2799 
3.  APN Hill Event on Jerusalem 
4.  Berman (D-CA) on the record at APN event in LA

APN Legislative Round-Up for the Week Ending January 22, 2010

1.  Bills and Resolutions 
2.  Rep. George Miller (D-CA) on the record 
3.  Speculation over Iran sanctions legislation continues 
4.  APN to Obama: Time to play hardball, for the sake of Middle East peace 
5.  APN blog post: Israel's Democracy in Jeopardy 
As President Obama embarks on his second year in office, he and his team continue to reiterate their commitment to achieving Israeli-Palestinian peace. Indeed, President Obama's peace team remains actively engaged and for the first time in months there are encouraging signs of progress toward renewing peace talks.  

An important lesson from 2009, however, is that it will take more than patience and polite words to make peace.  In his first year in office, President Obama articulated a clear vision for Middle East peace, worked tirelessly to make progress toward that goal, and in tangible terms achieved something significant, in the form of Israel's decision to adopt a partial settlement moratorium.  His efforts to make further progress, however, were stymied by intransigence on the part of both Israel and the Palestinians, by lack of clear buy-in and support from the Arab world, and by his own resolve to be unfailingly patient and polite, regardless of the behavior of others.    

In order to achieve a breakthrough toward peace in 2010, the Obama Administration will have to be prepared to play political hardball, re-orienting the US approach to Middle East peace efforts in the following ways:

Obama Premises for Re-Starting Permanent Status Talks?

For some time there has been a debate over whether President Obama will, or should, release his own ideas about the content of an Israeli-Palestinian permanent status agreement (PSA).  Now, as there appears to be a renewed push underway to launch Israeli-Palestinian permanent status talks, there is again discussion of whether it is time for President Obama to lay down some clear US ideas about those talks.

Interestingly, the Obama Administration has already gone a good way in this direction.  The fact is, with little fanfare and nobody really noticing, the Obama Administration has - in speeches and other statements of President Obama and his top officials - been gradually laying out some clear premises upon which it believes any permanent status talks will be based.  While these statements fall short of directly stating US expectations for the content of a PSA, they very clearly communicate US policy on some of the key permanent status issues, and it is no great leap to infer from them some clear US expectations about the shape and content of a PSA.

Transforming these discrete policy utterances into a cohesive set of premises about peace could arguably be very helpful in energizing President Obama's Middle East peace effort, reasserting US leadership and confidence in the Middle East policy arena.  Doing so could also reassure Israelis and Palestinians - as well as key allies in the region whom the US needs help from in launching talks - that the US recognizes and validates their core concerns.  Moreover, were the US to release a formal policy statement of some kind, along the lines discussed below, it would be very difficult for Israel or the Palestinians to attack the content, since it genuinely includes nothing that has not already been said.

Facing Israel's diplomatic "Price Tag" strategy: lessons for Obama

Since Special Middle East Envoy George Mitchell's appearance on Charlie Rose, the Israeli press has been full of reports of official indignation and outrage.  The running theme is: how dare Mitchell threaten Israel with cutting aid if it does not play ball on the peace process?  

And in a gift to Israeli hasbara-niks, this weekend's visit to Jerusalem by two of Obama's chief opponents in Congress, defeated Republican presidential candidate John McCain (R-AZ) and his lackey, Joe Lieberman (I-CT) spent most of Sunday telling the Israeli media how they would never allow such a thing to happen.

What Mitchell actually said, after Rose pressed him on whether the US has any sticks to use in the Israeli-Palestinian arena, was this