Time to hit the reset button (again), Mr. President.
You made solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict the centerpiece of your foreign-policy efforts both during the campaign and after your election.
You didn’t know too much about the Middle East, having concentrated on Chicago up until now, but your advisers — smart people like Zbig Brzezinski, Samantha Power and Rob Malley — told you that you could squeeze Israel back to pre-1967 borders and make the Arab world happy, and maybe get yourself a Nobel Prize for finally solving the conflict that had gone on for 61 years (actually, it’s been much longer than that).
All you had to do was force Israel to get out of the territories and allow the PLO to declare a state there. Hamas-dominated Gaza was a problem, but you could deal with that, er, somehow.
Well, they did give you the Nobel, for good intentions — it certainly couldn’t have been for dousing the conflict, which is burning as brightly as ever.
Even before your inauguration, you pressured Israel to end the war in Gaza with Hamas still standing. You failed to understand that the ability of the PLO to maintain a radical, no-compromise position rests on the implied threat that the alternative is something worse, Hamas.
You insisted on a freeze on all construction in the territories and East Jerusalem. Oops — didn’t you realize that no Israeli government could accept a limitation on sovereignty in its own capital, or a prohibition on building homes inside areas that would have become part of Israel under any imaginable peace deal?
To add insult to injury, your ‘friends’ in the Arab world that you tried so hard to ingratiate yourself with wouldn’t even make symbolic concessions to Israel in return!
And when you finally understood this and relaxed the demand for a freeze, you found out the hard way that legitimacy in Palestinian politics does not leave room for compromise. The PLO stabbed you in the back by refusing to talk without the impossible freeze.
This lesson was reinforced when you pulled Mahmoud Abbas’ string to get him to withdraw his insistence on bringing the Goldstone report to the Security Council, only to see him do a 180 a few days later. What did you expect? As a result, your guy lost whatever standing he had among the Palestinians, with Hamas the gainer.
Finally, with your efforts to bring about a deal struggling on the ropes, Hamas moved in with a solid uppercut to the jaw, delivered by its surrogate the Islamic Movement in Israel — which is doing its best to incite a third intifada by spreading lies about an imminent Jewish ‘attack’ on the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
So what did you accomplish? Less than nothing.
Meanwhile, the real threats to peace — Hezbollah and Hamas — are daily becoming stronger and more dangerous.