Last week, a letter from President Barack Obama was conveyed to Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president. In it, I understand, Obama spoke of his very strong commitment — unprecedented commitment — to a two-state peace and said that if Israel seriously undermines trust between the two parties, the United States will not stand in the way of a United Nations resolution condemning that.No American definition of what such trust-undermining acts might be was offered, which is why Erekat pressed Mitchell in their meeting last Friday on what would constitute “provocative actions” by Israel.But it seems clear that any reprise of the Ramat Shlomo debacle, which infuriated Obama, would meet American criteria. The bottom line to Israel is: Hold the building, hold the tenders and hold any other provocations while Mitchell shuttles.Obama’s recalibration of U.S. Middle East diplomacy is ground-shifting. He’s being pummeled from the usual quarters but he’ll stay the course because he’s a realist and because soldiers have told him that, with 200,000 plus American forces in Muslim countries, getting to Israel and Palestine living side-by-side in peace is a vital U.S. national security interest.
Mitchell saying: “You asked if I think Netanyahu is serious. They ask the same question. You are an expert on Palestinian and Israeli politics. They are the same. But no one in the world knows American politics better than me, and this I will say. There has never been in the White House a president that is so committed on this issue, including Clinton who is a personal friend, and there will never be, at least not in the lifetime of anyone in this room.”