Commentary Magazine


How’s the Peace Process Going?

The direct non-peace talks stopped being direct more than a month ago. Obama has tried to bribe and cajole Bibi into extending the settlement moratorium. It hasn’t worked, and the longer the hiatus, the less likely it seems that the talks would resume. And don’t expect things to improve, given the midterm elections’ results.

Elliott Abrams explains:

There is one clear bottom line from this election: Obama emerges from it a weakened president. And that, says ex-U.S. diplomat Elliott Abrams, means that “anyone who is trying to resist him feels probably that resistance is a little easier.” That will probably hold true in the case of the Middle East peace talks, where the U.S. president has been pushing the Israelis and Palestinians to come to an accord.

Now, says Abrams, “both sides out there [will] feel a little bit freer to push back.” And they’re almost certainly not the only ones who will see it that way. This election clearly does not make Barack Obama’s job as America’s diplomat in chief any easier.

In fact, there is so much downtime for the peace-talk negotiating team that its members are actually spending time talking to outside experts on efforts to promote democratization in Egypt. Maybe this is for real and bespeaks a recognition that their current sloth is a moral embarrassment and a strategic error. Or maybe this is just for show. But it also says something about the state of the non-peace, non-talks:

The fact that the key NSC regional officials participated in Tuesday’s meeting was interpreted by the outside foreign policy experts as a significant indicator that the Obama administration is giving more serious and high-level policy attention to the issue.

It may also be a sign as well that [Dennis] Ross and [Dan] Shapiro basically had both time and reason to devote to the issue because the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is currently on hold, and the Obama administration is “looking for a positive agenda in the region to talk about,” a participant posited. The Obama administration is also concerned, he suggested, that its previous diplomatic efforts to press Cairo in private conversations and in written statements to repeal its Emergency Law and to accept international elections monitors have been rejected or ignored.

I suspect there’s going to be a whole lot more rejecting and ignoring going on in the next two years. Obama has proven himself weak internationally and politically vulnerable at home; that is a recipe for international mischief-making by our foes and recalcitrance from our allies.