The walls are closing in on Obama’s Middle East policy. He flattered and cajoled the Palestinians while bullying the Israelis. He insisted on unilateral concessions from Bibi. He urged proximity talks to spare Fatah the trouble of getting in the room with the Israelis — and giving up both terrorism and the dream of a one-state solution (i.e., the right of Palestinians to return and demographically swamp Israel). None of it worked to move the parties closer to a peace deal.
Now signs abound that proximity talks will not lead to direct negotiations (which Obama said during Bibi’s visit were the next step in the “peace process”) but to a dead end. Since Obama’s declared preference for direct talks, Palestinian figures have thrown out a variety of new preconditions. The Egyptian foreign minister says the parties are “too far apart.” (I suppose ignoring Mubarak’s political crackdown and plying him with billions in new aid didn’t transform him into a helpful promoter of the “peace process.”)
In sum, Obama has invested enormous time and prestige and done immense damage to the U.S.-Israel relationship with nothing to show for it. There is no peace deal, and not even direct talks are on the horizon. And all this has diverted attention from (intentionally, one might conclude) his failure to derail Iran’s nuclear program. There, too, his engagement policy and pursuit of consensus (the lowest common denominator sanctions minus any gasoline sanctions) have also failed. Rather, his efforts have emboldened the mullahs and encouraged their junior partners in Damascus and Ankara to step up their anti-Israel behavior.
Along the way he’s frightened and angered American Jews, raised and then dashed Palestinians’ expectations, and undermined human rights and democracy activists in the Muslim World. It is what critics warned would happen. The Obami said they knew best. Turned out they didn’t.