As I observed on Friday, onlookers and officials could barely muster the forced smiles and rote expressions of optimism that normally accompany the “beginning” of (OK, the never-ending, fruitless) direct negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. The New York Times confesses:
There is little confidence — close to none — on either side that the Obama administration’s goal of reaching a comprehensive deal in one year can be met. … Yossi Beilin, for example, who left politics in 2008 after years as a leftist member of Parliament and government minister, said Friday that the Obama administration was wrong to set a one-year goal without consequences.
“I think this is a huge mistake by the U.S. administration,” he said by telephone. “There is not a chance in the world that in a year — or two or three — peace can be achieved. The gap between the sides is too big. Netanyahu did not come to power to divide Jerusalem or find a solution to the Palestinian refugees.
And now even the mainstream media don’t bother to conceal the PA’s game:
[Mahmoud Abbas] was hoping that the Obama administration would impose a solution, which he imagined would push Israel to yield more land and authority to him than the Netanyahu government favored.
That is why the Palestinians wanted only indirect talks brokered by the Americans. But Mr. Abbas failed to obtain what he sought, and the administration pushed him toward direct talks. He has agreed only from a position of weakness, he and others say.
Abbas did not disappoint, threatening “that the new round of Middle East peace talks announced Friday by the Obama administration could be over as soon as they begin if Israel continues new construction on the West Bank.” Bibi has already said he will not extend the moratorium. Abbas, you see, is already planning his escape route from the talks.
Umm, did the Obama team not realize all this? And really, what is the point? As one canny observer put it:
Nothing good has ever come of decades of American meddling in the Israeli-Arab “peace process”—at best, it’s been a monumental waste of everyone’s time; at worst, it produced the Second Intifada—and nothing good can come of this latest and most farcical effort.
On the merits, the time and effort invested in the counterproductive “peace process” cannot be justified. But Obama persists, one can surmise, for reasons that have nothing to do with a “two-state solution.” (For that, as George Will correctly observes, is “delusional” at this point.)
Imagining his mere appearance on the stage and a huge amount of suck-uppery to Muslims would deliver the peace that has eluded his predecessors, Obama invested a huge amount of his personal credibility in brokering a deal. He elevated this issue to the top of his foreign-policy agenda. He strained our relationship with Israel to the breaking point. To give up now, as his domestic standing is crumbling, would be a blow — both personal and political — too great to endure. He is merely postponing a humiliation, and at the price of further fraying ties with Israel and provoking yet another intifada when talks inevitably end and Israel is fingered as the culprit.
And, if Obama did not have the endless “peace process” to hide behind and to discuss with the increasingly irritated American Jewish community, what would there be to talk about? Oh, yes, the existential threat to Israel, the rise of a hegemonic-minded Iran, the drift of Turkey into the Islamist orbit, the rearming of Hezbollah, the abominable state of human rights in Muslim countries, and the failure of his administration to do much of anything about any of these issues. Just as Arab despots in the region point to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to distract “Arab street” from their own shortcomings, Obama has used the “peace process” like a gaudy bauble to dangle before American Jews, elite opinion makers, and the media. And to a large degree, he’s suceeeded in lulling them into a semi-catatonic state (and snagging himself a Nobel Peace Prize, which by the way, looks even more ludicrous now than at the time it was bestowed). Once the “peace process” charade ends, the focus would once again be on him and his failure to abate — in fact his apparent effort to accelerate —the decline of American power in the region. And the president can’t have that, can he?