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Contentions

Foreign Policy as Speaking Engagement

There is a joke supposedly making the rounds these days in the Israeli Prime Minister’s Bureau:

What do Americans do when something breaks down in their home — when the sink is blocked up, the toilet overflows, a fuse burns out? Simple: They ask Barack Obama to give a speech and the problem is solved.

In this morning’s New York Times Book Review, there is some unintended humor along the same lines. Reviewing Dennis Ross and David Makovsky’s “Myths, Illusions and Peace,” Adam LeBor praises the authors for analyzing the deficiencies of “neoconservative” and “realist” policies and proposing a third way: “engagement without illusions” (EWOI).

Apparently, what EWOI means in connection with the Israeli-Palestinian issue is . . . giving a speech:

[Ross and Makovsky's] approach can be advantageous when, for example, countering the neoconservative myth that America’s best interests are served by disengaging from the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.  President Obama’s recent speech in Cairo has shown how American pressure can, in a matter of days, reanimate a moribund process.

Ironically, LeBor’s review comes at the end of a week demonstrating the limits of EWOI, as it became painfully obvious that neither Obama’s Cairo speech, nor his personal visit to Saudi Arabia, nor his bow before the King, nor his public distancing from Israel (and telling Jewish leaders that distance is the path to peace) has produced any movement at all from Saudi Arabia.

According to the New York Times, administration officials say Obama “was frustrated by his recent trip to Saudi Arabia, when he met with King Abdullah and failed to extract any meaningful gestures toward Israel to revive the peace process.”

This led to Hillary Clinton’s effort this week to reanimate the peace process with . . . a speech. In her address to the Council on Foreign Relations, she put forward a watered-down request that Arab states take some steps — “however modest” — to reach out to Israel. The administration’s supposedly superior approach to the peace process has devolved into publicly pleading with Arab states to do something — it can be as modest as they want — lest the administration have to admit its engagement has been based on an illusion.



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