The Blowup with Israel - Editorial (Washington Post)
President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu have a powerful and urgent common interest. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has turned his back on both Israel and the United States; he is seeking accommodation with the extremist Hamas movement and has announced that he will seek a declaration of Palestinian statehood from the UN General Assembly in September.
Now, of all times, the Israeli and U.S. governments ought to be working closely together; they should be trying to defuse the UN threat and induce Mr. Abbas to change course. Instead, Friday found Mr. Obama and Mr. Netanyahu once again publicly and poisonously at odds with each other, thanks to a handful of lines added by Mr. Obama to his Middle East speech on Thursday. The president's decision to publicly endorse terms for a peace settlement seemingly calculated to appeal to Mr. Abbas, over the strong objections of Mr. Netanyahu, has had the effect of distracting attention from the new U.S. agenda for the region.
Mr. Obama's intention is to persuade Mr. Abbas to give up his UN bid and return to negotiations with Israel. To do so, he endorsed one of the conditions Palestinians have tried to set for talks: that they be based on Israel's 1967 border lines. But Mr. Netanyahu has not yet signed on, and so Mr. Obama's decision to confront him with a formal U.S. embrace of the idea, with only a few hours' warning, ensured a blowup.
Mr. Obama should have learned from his past diplomatic failures - including his attempt to force a freeze on Jewish settlements in the West Bank - that initiating a conflict with Israel will thwart rather than advance peace negotiations. He may also be giving short shrift to what Mr. Netanyahu called "some basic realities." The president appears to assume that Mr. Abbas is open to a peace deal despite growing evidence to the contrary.
This president likes to portray himself as a pragmatist in foreign policy. In this case, pragmatism would suggest that restoring trust with Israel, rather than courting a feckless Palestinian leader, would