Israel-Arab-Obama Impasse – Where Next?

Posted on November 12, 2009 In Blog

Last week, there was a spate of editorials and punditry on how President Obama and his team have misfired in their efforts to have Israelis and Palestinians back at the table negotiating a final peace deal.

Even NYTimes’ Tom Friedman let forth his frustration by calling for the President to “get out of the picture” and leave Israelis and Palestinians alone until they are ready to come back to the table of their own needs and will. (Hey, wasn’t that an approach Friedman and others regularly attacked President G.W. Bush for engaging in?)

This week saw Rahm Emanuel standing in for President Obama in delivering a speech to the Jewish community to reassure it of the President’s best intentions, and the President meeting at The White House with Prime Minister Netanyahu – although getting the meeting scheduled, not to mention that not even a photo of the two leaders meeting was released, ruffled feathers.

But having put the speech and the meeting to bed, the Obama team has to be trying to figure out where to go next – and one has to presume that Tom Friedman’s option is not an option for a White House whose National Security Adviser deemed this the “epicenter” of policy issues.

So, brace yourself for seeing more proposals bandied about. Walter Russell Mead suggests Obama ought to invest more heavily in the Palestinians.

We suspect – and fear – that others might start floating notions that it is time for the President to publicly put forward, as “the Obama plan” – a specific set of proposals for a final agreement along the lines of what foreign policy elites say “everyone knows” the final deal will look like. We fear this because what we know is that while “everyone” at cocktail parties or in panel discussions might “know” how the Israeli-Arab conflict will be resolved, it is the people who live in that region and whose lives are at stake who cannot afford to have an abstraction asserted that does not actually guarantee peace and security. And until Israel’s enemies “know” what “everyone knows” and can “recite it in their sleep,” it is more dangerous than useful to contemplate an American proposal.