The Jerusalem Post reports today that despite the failure of the Obama administration’s envoys to convince the Arab world to reach out to Israel, the State Department still plans to set forth an official Middle East “peace plan” in a few weeks.
Over the past few days, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait have all rejected the confidence-building gestures toward Israel that Obama hoped to extract. Unfortunately for Obama, his decision to confront Israel over settlements hasn’t resulted in any incentives for Arabs to make nice. On the contrary, they see no reason to engage with Israel while Obama is squabbling with it. Therefore, no matter what compromise Israel and the United States eventually reach on a settlement freeze, it’s liable not to be enough to satisfy the Jewish state’s foes.
But that doesn’t appear to be a deterrent to Obama’s hosting of an international peace conference sometime this fall. Yet what could possibly come out of such a conference when the parties remain so far apart? Given the many Clinton-era veterans staffing the Obama administration, doesn’t anyone in a position of authority remember what happened when Bill Clinton, desperate for a Nobel Peace Prize, pushed for a conclave with Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat? The resulting fiasco set the stage for a new round of Palestinian terrorism. Barak’s Camp David offer of a Palestinian state in almost all the West Bank, Gaza, and part of Jerusalem didn’t tempt Arafat, who understood that his legitimacy as the Palestinian dictator was based on his war against Israel, not peace with it.
With the Palestinian leadership now split between the hapless Palestinian Authority led by Fatah’s Mahmoud Abbas and the Islamists of Hamas who rule in Gaza, the chances of a deal are far slimmer than they were in the summer of 2000. The State Department is ignoring that basic fact as they trumpet “Palestinian security reforms” as incentives to induce Israel to make further concessions.
For those who cling to the myth of Fatah’s moderation, which is widely circulated by Washington, a visit to the Palestinian Media Watch website takes viewers inside an official Fatah tribute to Palestinian high-school graduates, which took place last week under the auspices of Abbas. At the ceremony, Fatah high-school activists vow to reclaim “Haifa, Acre, Jaffa and our Arab Jerusalem” and vow that “Fatah is with the rifle.” So long as even the “moderate” Palestinians view even the Israel of the 1949 armistice lines as land to be conquered and reclaimed for a Palestinian state, it is hard to imagine that an Obama-sponsored photo-op will help much.
Taken together with America’s Arab allies’ no-confidence vote on Obama’s effort, the blind determination to go ahead anyway with a peace conference that promises more danger than opportunity shows that this administration, staffed by so-called realists, has only a tenuous grasp of Middle East realities.