Rumors Building Up About A New Obama Peace Push
Boy do I love rumors. And if there is anything I love more than rumors, its rumors that originate inside Washington, which usually has the effect of spreading around town and taking on a life of their own once newspapers get a hold of them.
Such is the case with a rumor now circulating in the Beltway that President Barack Obama is working feverously on a new Middle East peace plan. And God knows that we need it…the process has been stalled for the past decade.
Israel’s policy of unconditional settlement building, along with Mahmoud Abbas’ refusal to even sit down with the Israelis, has made peace some sort of alien concept for the past ten years. The United States hasn’t helped the situation either, partly due to its taken-for-granted support of Israel and partly due to President Obama’s inability to take provocative steps (like sanctions and termination of the American aid pipeline) to get talks started.
So for obvious reasons, an American-imposed peace plan is generating a lot of excitement in the blogosphere…and on the twitter feeds for that manner. But we should be cautious that such a move is actually taking place within the White House, because let’s face it, the administration hasn’t been all that united on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to begin with. Dennis Ross, Obama’s chief Mideast Policy advisor, is staunchly pro-Israeli (so much so that some people are starting to question whether he is more sympathetic to Israel than the United States), while VP Joe Biden is probably still hot under the collar over his embarrassing trip to Israel last month. And of course there’s George Mitchell, who is the administration’s point man on current negotiations (or lack thereof) and who seems to be enduring a level of frustration that even a patient diplomat like himself cannot bear.
Is this supposed peace plan actually a real thing? Well, yes and no.
From what I’ve heard so far, it looks as if the Obama administration is going to wait a little longer before they decide to implement an American-led peace push. Some officials in the administration, particularly those involved in U.S. Middle East policy, are saying that the President’s main priority is still getting “proximity talks” forward, which would probably be a dismal failure anyway. Of course, I take everything that the White House says with a grain of salt, because the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of those issues that can create deep schisms between high-ranking administration officials. Actually, it seems like this is occurring already, with Envoy George Mitchell calling an American plan “premature.”
Whatever the administration decides to do, I hope they wait for the proximity talks to fail first. You can only use the most important tool at your disposal after all others are exhausted, and a unilateral peace plan by the United States is the sharpest tool the country has. Doing it now, just as Mitchell and Clinton are trying to get indirect talks back on the table, simply doesn’t make sense.
Patience is the key here. Look what happened when the President rushed earlier on in the process…he got rebuffed and humiliated by Benjamin Netanyahu over settlements, and lost a whole lot of credibility with Arabs at the same time.
-Daniel R. DePetris
**Comments courtesy of Marc Lynch at FP.com**