Amid swirling rumors and grand propositions, President Obama spoke yesterday on the so-called peace process and among peace-process professionals his words will be duly noted as an effort to “manage expectations”.
But for those of us who do not have an investment in the idea that the show must go on, what he said can be boiled down to this: Obama doesn’t see the necessary desire among the antagonists for the conflict to be resolved any time soon or under any amount of American pressure. No imposed US peace plan. No big speech in Jerusalem.
I think that the need for peace between Israelis and Palestinians and the Arab states remains as critical as ever.
It is a very hard thing to do. And I know that even if we are applying all of our political capital to that issue, the Israeli people through their government, and the Palestinian people through the Palestinian Authority, as well as other Arab states, may say to themselves, we are not prepared to resolve this — these issues — no matter how much pressure the United States brings to bear.
And the truth is, in some of these conflicts the United States can’t impose solutions unless the participants in these conflicts are willing to break out of old patterns of antagonism. I think it was former Secretary of State Jim Baker who said, in the context of Middle East peace, we can’t want it more than they do.
But what we can make sure of is, is that we are constantly present, constantly engaged, and setting out very clearly to both sides our belief that not only is it in the interests of each party to resolve these conflicts but it’s also in the interest of the United States. It is a vital national security interest of the United States to reduce these conflicts because whether we like it or not, we remain a dominant military superpower, and when conflicts break out, one way or another we get pulled into them. And that ends up costing us significantly in terms of both blood and treasure.
So I’m going to keep on at it. But I think on all these issues — nuclear disarmament, nuclear proliferation, Middle East peace — progress is going to be measured not in days, not in weeks. It’s going to take time. And progress will be halting. And sometimes we’ll take one step forward and two steps back, and there will be frustrations. And so it’s not going to run on the typical cable news 24/7 news cycle. But if we’re persistent, and we’ve got the right approach, then over time, I think that we can make progress.
And who will be most reassured by this message of persistent hope on the long and winding road to Middle East peace? Why, the Israelis of course. Surprise, surprise.