Jen, nothing better demonstrates the point that Aaron David Miller and you make about the “peace process” than the fact that, when speaking about it, one needs to put air quotes around it. The “peace process” has not produced peace, and these days is not even a process. The proposed “proximity talks” are not really talks, and the word “proximity” means . . . what? That the non-talking parties are physically near each other? That the non-talks are “approximately” talks? It is getting difficult to follow even the euphemisms used for the “peace process” rituals.
The irony is that when Benjamin Netanyahu came to Washington last May, six weeks after forming a government that included both Likud and Labor, he proposed immediate peace negotiations — rejecting the advice of his foreign minister to slow down. Netanyahu was met with a new precondition: cessation of any and all building anywhere east of the 1967 boundaries, even in Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem, and even in major Jewish population centers that Israel would retain in any conceivable peace agreement. No similar cessation was proposed for Arab building, nor was any other precondition proposed for the Palestinians, who only months before had rejected still another Israeli offer of a state that the secretary of state had urged them to accept.
A week later, Obama met with Mahmoud Abbas and undoubtedly told him about the condition he had just imposed on Netanyahu; ever since, Abbas has refused to negotiate until the condition is met. A week after that, Obama went to Cairo and announced to the entire Muslim world that the U.S. did not accept the “legitimacy of continued settlements.” In a little over two weeks, Obama had transformed the “peace process” into a battle over a precondition that no Israeli government could accept and no Palestinian leader could forgo (not after the U.S. had insisted on it and announced it to the world).
To believe that the next logical step should be a U.S. “plan” to be effectively imposed on the parties — or at least one of them, or maybe one and a half of them — is a sign of a religion in search of stone tablets to be handed down. Having failed to initiate talks even after Israel accepted them, the peace processors in the administration now apparently want to jump to the end game and have the president simply announce it. They must think he is sort of a deity.