The tale of the Sinai took an interesting turn on Monday after the American Israel Public Affairs Committee called on the Obama Administration to defuse the tension, pointing squarely the finger of blame towards the Democrats for jeopardizing Middle East peace. Asking the Obama Administration to “defuse the tension”, is contrary to the entire chain of events that transpired to the current stand-off.
After getting the proverbial slap in the face from Israel, the AIPAC is rubbing it in US Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State, Hilary Clintons’ faces of exactly what it thinks of Washington's plans of peace with Palestine. In fact, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu has stepped up the reverse pressure by telling the Knesset, Israeli Congress, that construction of the controversial settlement in East Jerusalem will go ahead as planned. In a show of strength, security has been beefed up in Jerusalem. The closure of the West Bank was extended by three days on Saturday by Defence Minister Ehud Barak following the announcement of the construction of 1,600 new units in East Jerusalem. A restriction on protests has also been placed amid the arrest of Maher U'dda, a senior Hamas operative in Ramallah. Palestinian youth though protested in two areas Shuafat and Essawiyya on early Tuesday.
The coincidences have been coming fast and thick. While Netanyahu orders an inquiry into the controversial announcement, the gauntlet is firmly with the Obama Administration to come out with a strong action which places the balance of power firmly back with the US and put an end to Bibi's blackmail. Question is, how bad can the relations between the two countries get after hitting its lowest since 1975?
So far, however, responses have been timid with US State Department Spokesman Philip Crowley stating that Israel is a key strategic partner in the region. Eyes of the world now turn to the White House for an action. US Special Envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell has suspended his intended visit to the region as a mark of protest.
Perhaps de-linking the peace deal and engagement with Iran was not such a good idea after all and has left the US Foreign Office red faced by an insolent band in the Sinai desert, and no, it’s not the Palestinians this time round. The de coupling of the two issues renders the US handicapped in the stick and carrot approach.
The Easter period could soon go from bad to worse. With pressure from home on health care, this is not the time that Obama should get distracted and lose focus. An answer is needed and needed fast. Netanyahu will be arriving in Washington soon for the annual congregation of the AIPAC, it may then be advantageous for Obama to dictate his terms. In the interim, the muscle of Uncle Sam needs to be flexed over an unruly ally to keep them in their place.