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Is the U.S. Entering a New Political Paradigm With Israel?

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I don't like to get my hopes up when it comes to the Middle East, but reading the Israeli press, it's hard not to be encouraged for the first time since 2000. Consider this bit:

U.S. President Barack Obama's demands during his meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last Tuesday point to an intention to impose a permanent settlement on Israel and the Palestinians in less than two years, political sources in Jerusalem say.Israeli officials view the demands that Obama made at the White House as the tip of the iceberg under which lies a dramatic change in U.S. policy toward Israel.

Of 10 demands posed by Obama, four deal with Jerusalem: opening a Palestinian commercial interests office in East Jerusalem, an end to the razing of structures in Palestinian neighborhoods in the capital, stopping construction in Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, and not building the neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo.

In effect, the president is utterly repudiating the aggressive rhetoric that Netanyahu displayed at the AIPAC conference. Bibi said that (East) Jerusalem is not a settlement. Obama says that it is.

By demanding that Israel cease building in East Jerusalem and stop razing Palestinians' property, Obama is asking Netanyahu to order something he is incapable of ordering. Or, at least, he's incapable of ordering it within his current coalition, which relies upon the Yisrael Beiteinu and Shas parties. At a minimum, the Obama administration is insisting that Netanyahu cut a deal with Kadima in order to gain the power he needs to stop construction in East Jerusalem. More likely, Obama just wants to force Bibi out of power. After all, he's insolent and indistinguishable from the neo-conservative lunatics that hijacked our own government and ran it into a ditch.

I actually kind of agree with the Mustache of Understanding this week when he argued that playtime is over.

If you think this latest Israeli-American flap was just the same-old-same-old tiff over settlements, then you’re clearly not paying attention — which is how I’d describe a lot of Israelis, Arabs and American Jews today.This tiff actually reflects a tectonic shift that has taken place beneath the surface of Israel-U.S. relations. I’d summarize it like this: In the last decade, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process — for Israel — has gone from being a necessity to a hobby. And in the last decade, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process — for America — has gone from being a hobby to a necessity. Therein lies the problem.

What he means is that Israel has done such a good job of stopping terrorism that they feel like they can live with the status quo, which includes a non-stop theft of Palestinian land with no end in sight. Meanwhile, the Americans have finally decided that Israel is a national security burden and that we cannot allow them to go on stealing land while pretending to be interested in peace.

Where Friedman is particularly correct is in his assessment that Israel is feeling emboldened after eight years of Bush. Look at their prime minister. He comes to our capital, knowing that he's already in the doghouse, and tells us that he owns all of Jerusalem and that we can shove it? They are so used to us backing down that they don't seem to understand what is going on right now. But, hey, I feel the same way.

Maybe this is all William Ayers's fault.

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