Magical Thinking About Peace

Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute provided some incisive testimony last week to a subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, warning against the persistent belief that “there is a magical solution to the Israel-Palestine problem – some trick, some person, some formula that will make it all right.”

We have welcomed the return of the PLO to the West Bank and Gaza, the leadership of Yasser Arafat, the leadership of Abu Mazen, the responsible stewardship of Salam Fayyad, the participation of Hamas in elections (that worked out well), various truces and agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and more. We have rushed, serially, to worship at the feet of various Palestinians who we think can “deliver” without regard to their standing in Palestinian society or their actual accomplishments. . . .

In the valuable Elliott Abrams interview that Shmuel noted yesterday, Ruthie Blum Leibowitz asked why he had been skeptical of Condoleezza Rice and Ehud Olmert’s optimism that a final-status agreement was in reach, given the conventional wisdom that both sides had long understood the outline of a deal.  Abrams responded in part as follows:

[I]t seemed to me that the opposite view was right: that if everybody knows what a deal has to look like, and year after year and decade after decade, it is not possible to reach it, isn’t it obvious that it’s because neither side wants that deal? . . . . [I]f everybody knows what the options are, and the most Israel can offer is less than the least the Palestinians can accept, the solution is not close at hand. . . .

It did not seem to me then – and it does not seem to me now – that we’re on the verge of a final-status agreement.

The Obama administration seems poised (calling Abu Mazen immediately, promptly appointing George Mitchell as negotiator, increasing Gaza aid, etc.) to push a solution. Pletka’s testimony and Abrams’s interview indicate such an effort will be not only premature but counterproductive.