In a speech to the Fatah leadership, Mahmoud Abbas pointed out the contradiction inherent in the posture that President Obama has assumed. On the one hand Washington has been pushing the line that a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict represents a vital American interest, yet at the same time Obama says, “we can’t want it more than they do.”
Unless Obama believes that in this particular arena he lacks the ability to defend American interests, he needs to advance or withdraw from his position — a position which is unsustainable.
What is Obama actually doing? He is, as far as I can see, employing a range of tactics yet has no strategy. As a result, every move he makes lacks credibility.
The Independent reports:
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas made a blunt appeal to the US at the weekend, asking US President Barack Obama to “impose” a solution to the Middle East conflict. The call comes amid deepening frustration at Israel’s refusal to suspend the construction of Jewish homes in Arab-dominated East Jerusalem.
The plea, made several times in private but uttered in public for the first time, came as US envoy George Mitchell wrapped up a three-day visit to Jerusalem without any breakthrough on starting the proximity talks. “Since you, Mr President and you, the members of the American administration, believe in this [Palestinian statehood], it is your duty to call for the steps in order to reach the solution and impose the solution – impose it,” Mr Abbas said in a speech to leaders of his Fatah party.
“But don’t tell me it’s a vital national strategic American interest … and then not do anything,” he added.
Richard Haass, in the Wall Street Journal, argues that an initiative to impose peace at this time is doomed to failure but that even if the conflict could be resolved, the national security rewards for the United States would be limited.
The danger of exaggerating the benefits of solving the Palestinian conflict is that doing so runs the risk of distorting American foreign policy. It accords the issue more prominence than it deserves, produces impatience, and tempts the U.S. government to adopt policies that are overly ambitious.
This is not an argument for ignoring the Palestinian issue. As is so often the case, neglect will likely prove malign. But those urging President Obama to announce a peace plan are doing him and the cause of peace no favor. Announcing a comprehensive plan now—one that is all but certain to fail—risks discrediting good ideas, breeding frustration in the Arab world, and diluting America’s reputation for getting things done.
As Edgar noted in “King Lear,” “Ripeness is all.” And the situation in the Middle East is anything but ripe for ambitious diplomacy. What is missing are not ideas—the outlines of peace are well-known—but the will and ability to compromise.
Haass’ argument, as one would expect, is that of an avowed foreign policy realist and it exposes a weakness inherent in every angle from which every US government has approached the conflict: they have studiously avoided acknowledging that injustice lies at the heart of the conflict. Instead of pursuing justice, they frame the issue as being one of balancing interests.
In the latest effort to skirt around the issue of justice we have been told that the conflict needs to be resolved because it is in America’s national interests and that the perpetuation of the conflict is endangering the lives of American soldiers in the region. In this narrative, the Palestinians — as has happened so many times before — somehow become marginal. Enlisting their support is reduced to an exercise in recruiting a few good sports — obliging fellows like Salam Fayyad, who will be good enough to assist the US and Israel in accomplishing their aims.