President Obama's visit was like a Rorschach test. Different people saw so many different meanings in it and different viewpoints led people to very different conclusions. The issue of settlements is a good example of this: Was it an Israeli achievement to get the President to change his position- to stop making demands focused on 'freezes'- and to turn what used to be a very big issue into a non-issue? Or maybe the President was only withdrawing tactically for something that is no less demanding than a freeze?
You'd expect Israel to gloat about such a seemingly triumphant change of American policy, but it doesn't seem to be doing that. In fact, both Palestinians and Israelis weren't quite impressed with Obama's message concerning the settlements. I think I know why. Take a look at my new IHT-NYT article for the reason (hint: it has to do with a new negotiation policy which is more about maps than about temporary freezes). Here's a short excerpt:
Israeli officials know Obama’s shift is probably a pyrrhic victory. His approval ratings in Israel did go up following his visit and the Israeli government is happy to see Washington drop its demand that settlement construction be frozen, but Obama’s “major calibration” creates more problems for the Israeli government than it solves.
Basically, he replaced the contentious issue of settlements with an even more contentious matter: boundaries. As Obama explained in both Ramallah and Jerusalem, drawing the future border of a Palestinian state — “real borders that have to be drawn” — is the crux of the matter.
Why is drawing a map so problematic? Read the rest of the article here.