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Contentions

Annals of a 91-Year-Old Peace Process

Yesterday, the White House posted a “readout” of President Obama’s call to Palestinian “President” Mahmoud Abbas, who is beginning the 65th month of his 48-month term. Obama congratulated him on the start of the proximity talks, urged him to do “everything he can” to prevent incitement or delegitimization of Israel, and said he “looks forward to receiving President Abbas at the White House soon.”

There is an obvious disparity between the treatment of Abbas and that of the leader of Israel. Benjamin Netanyahu was kept waiting until the last moment before receiving a presidential audience; the meeting was held after business hours and with a side-door entrance and exit; he was blindsided at the meeting and left alone while Obama had dinner with his family; there was no meeting with the media before or after; and there was not even a picture. The only thing missing was a parting gift of an iPod loaded with Obama’s Cairo speech. Abbas will get the opposite treatment on every count, starting with a news release announcing that the president looks forward to meeting him.

The slight to Israel is obvious, but there is an additional reason for the ostentatious treatment of Abbas. The dirty little secret of the “peace process” is that the U.S. wants a Palestinian state more than the Palestinians do, for reasons discussed in Walter Russell Mead’s perceptive post, “The Middle East Peace Industry” — worth reading in its entirety (but only with Nadine’s important comment on it). Mead notes that the “Middle East peace process is the longest running piece of diplomatic theater on the world stage,” dating from 1919 (with a two-state solution proposed by the Jews and rejected by the Arabs), with repeated failures caused by the continuing Arab goal of one state rather than two.

The Palestinian lack of interest in the latest version of the “peace process” is palpable. A year ago, Israel announced that it wanted immediate negotiations without preconditions; formally affirmed a two-state solution as the goal of the negotiations; and took an unprecedented step to help them start. The Palestinians refused to commence negotiations intended to give them a state, still refuse to attend them in person, and are willing only to let the Obama administration negotiate for them. They have discovered that saying “no we can’t” produces not criticism of them but pressure on Israel to make more concessions, followed by congratulations to the Palestinians.



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