The Ottomans and Zionists blog highlights an important Washington Post piece that examines how Obama failed to forge a new peace in the Middle East. The Post recounts the moment Obama lost the trust of Israel's leaders:
In mid-May 2009, Netanyahu made his way to Washington for his first meeting with Obama as president. The leaders did not know each other well — one senior administration official described Netanyahu as “essentially a Republican” — and their outlook on the future shape of Israel differed starkly.
Netanyahu had not declared his support for a two-state solution. Unsure what reception he would receive, he found out quickly when the leaders met May 18 at the White House.
“Settlements have to be stopped in order for us to move forward,” Obama told reporters in the Oval Office, Netanyahu by his side.
Netanyahu was stunned by the encounter, according to Israelis, Americans and Palestinians who were later briefed on the meeting. The next day, he headed to Capitol Hill for a talk with Jewish members of Congress, a group that gathered a couple of times a year.
It was clear to some present, as they recounted the meeting, that Netanyahu was looking for support to take on Obama over his demand for a settlement freeze.
“What he received was a distinct surprise to him, which was unified support from many longtime friends of Israel for the president’s policy,” said former congressman Robert Wexler (D-Fla.), who attended the meeting after serving as a liaison between Obama and Jewish voters during the campaign. “He was clearly taken aback.”
Ottomans and Zionists points out that Obama's team made the crucial mistake of ignoring the impact of the second intafada on Israeli politics and the Israeli psyche:
The bigger lesson that jumps out though from the Post piece is that Obama and his team completely failed to take into account the way the second intifada changed the dynamic in Israel. Think about the Israeli mindset for a minute – following the Oslo process and the devolution of parts of the West Bank to the Palestinian Authority and then the pullout from the security zone in Lebanon, Israel was met by a Hamas suicide bombing campaign and ultimately the second intifada. This rightly made Israelis nervous and largely killed the peace camp, and in order for Israel to keep the process going, it wanted to feel reassured that the U.S. understood its concerns. In short, it did want a blank check to do as it pleased, but just a bit of empathy from the president. Obama and his advisers, however, missed this crucial point. The president is quoted as saying to American Jewish leaders in July 2009, “Look at the past eight years. During those eight years, there was no space between us and Israel, and what did we get from that? When there is no daylight, Israel just sits on the sidelines, and that erodes our credibility with the Arab states.” This was the wrong lesson to be learned from the Bush years. It wasn’t that Israel felt that a close embrace from the U.S. gave it the green light to sit on the sidelines. It was that the Bush administration did not ask Israel to make any concessions. Had Bush pushed the Israelis on settlements or easing up on Mahmoud Abbas, the Israelis may very well have done so, but there was never a concerted effort from the Bush administration to extract many concessions from Israel. Israelis are extremely disenchanted with the peace process, and if the U.S. wants real movement, it needs to understand how scarring the second intifada was to the Israeli psyche and take that into account.