Obama Meeting PA HeadNobody needs to be political genius to figure out which way the wind is blowing in regards to how the Obama Administration is formulating its Middle East policies; especially those regarding Israel. The “two state solution”, settlement freeze, and apparent warming up to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is a sobering indication that Israel will not get the same treatment from Washington that was received during the Bush Administration. And for sure, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will not be so close to the Netanyahu government in Jerusalem as Condoleezza Rice was.

Obama and his Ivy League foreign policy gurus have given the Israeli government a two year deadline to prepare for the reality of Palestinian statehood, and that includes an immediate freeze to all settlement activity in the West Bank, including, we presume, such Jerusalem suburbs as Maale Adumim, now regarded as the largest Jewish town in the West Bank. The new US policy decisions include an immediate dismantling of a number of “outpost settlements” which although considered as illegal during the Bush Administration were allowed to remain in place – most of them that is.

The big issue now is just which ones are considered to be outpost settlements and which will not? Will Alfe Menashe (a settlement near the Israeli city of Kfar Saba and virtually alongside the Palestinian city of Kalkilia) be slated for dismantlement, as well as ones like Tekoa (in the Gush Etzion Bloc) also fall within this definition?
And let’s not forget ones like the small Jewish presence in Hebron, virtually surrounded by nearly 200,000 Palestinians. The list goes on and on.

From a political standpoint, things might have been a bit more flexible under a Kadima Party government headed by Tzipi Livni; but the Israeli way of putting ruling coalition governments together determined a different political path, as the Likud party’s right winged political friends, lined up on Netanyahu’s side, along with Labor Party leader Ehud Barak, who broke a long standing political philosophy to go “right of center” and join up with such people as Avigdor Lieberman and his Yisrael Beitanu Party.

That’s not the way things turned out, and as a result, the “winds of change” blowing eastward from the U.S. Capital appear to be a bit on the chilly side. For all of us living here in the Levant, let’s hope that the chilly winds from Washington don’t turn into hot winds blowing from either the North (Lebanon), Northeast (Syria) or especially from the East (Teheran), as well as from our Palestinian “neighbors” in Gaza and possibly later on, the West Bank.