Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu is in the United States on a five day tour, giving speeches. This presented a delicate situation as his government's plans to build an additional 1,000 homes in East Jerusalem were announced.
Israel on Wednesday ruled out a freeze on the building of new settler homes in east Jerusalem, defying world powers who have warned the issue risks wrecking fragile peace talks with the Palestinians.
"There has never been a freeze on construction in Jerusalem and there never will be such a freeze -- that has been the policy of Israeli governments for 40 years," cabinet secretary Zvi Hauser told public radio.
President Obama, in Indonesia as the announcement was made, dived right into the controversy. As is his habit, he criticized Israel on the world stage and seems oblivious - or deliberately obstinate - to the need for U.S. support for Israel.
Obama began his remarks on the Israeli/Palestinian dispute by saying he has not been fully briefed. That, however, didn't stop him from spouting utterly destructive nonsense against our only ally in that area of the world, Israel:
Asked whether the planned construction of new Israeli housing settlements in East Jerusalem might undermine his administration's Middle East peace efforts, Obama said that he had not been fully briefed on the latest developments on Israeli settlements but added a strong note of caution.
"This kind of activity is never helpful when it comes to peace negotiations," Obama said. "And I'm concerned that we're not seeing each side make the extra effort involved to get a breakthrough that could finally create a framework for a secure Israel living side and side -- side by side -- in peace with a sovereign Palestine."
And this report from the region: Apparently, the US President criticized Israel for approving some 1,000 new housing units in East Jerusalem, which seems to be a sensitive move while peace negotiations with the Palestinians are going on.
The EU weighed in: European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton urged Israel on Tuesday to reverse its decision to build 1,300 new settler homes in occupied east Jerusalem. “This plan contradicts the efforts by the international community to resume direct negotiations and the decision should be reversed,” her office said in a statement.
Muslims in Egypt also weigh on their disappointment in Obama, so far, on not living up to the grandiose Cairo speech of 2009. In Jakarta on Wednesday, he repeated that America was not at war with Islam, was determined to bring security to Afghanistan and would spare no effort to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
"I personally had higher expectations for change" after the 2009 speech, said Cairo lawyer Hatem Khalil. "It's ignorant to believe Obama will solve the Palestinian case... I also agree that if the U.S. takes out all its military from Iraq in one phase the country will collapse -- but I think that with Egypt, more needs to be done."
Obama's Jakarta speech emphasized democracy and Indonesia's progress in bridging racial and religious divides, but Cairo University politics professor Hassan Nafaa said Arab states had moved away from democratic reform since the Bush administration.
Nafaa said Obama did not mention the recent record of Arab reform though his upbeat remarks about Indonesia's vibrant democracy were seen as a veiled reference to autocratic Muslim countries to emulate the Asian country.
Why would Arab nations feel pressure to make democratic reforms if the leading voices in the Obama administration continue to make world news with criticism of Israel's continued efforts to remain secure in a hostile part of the world? The number one sticking point in the negotiations between Israel and Palestine for a two state solution - which former President Bush was the first to promote, by the way - is that Palestine refuses to recognize the State of Israel. Without the basic acknowledgement of the existence of a legitimate nation, there will be no agreement between the two.
Barack Obama continues into Jimmy Carter territory in foreign policy failure - criticize and belittle our allies, stroke our enemies. Blanket statements about Muslims and Islam will not make a dent in our alliances. Each struggling Muslim nation - and the more affluent ones - have different needs. So do our allies. Israel is in a dangerous and shrinking part of the world. As long as all the concessions are placed on Israel, what is their incentive to change course?