Is Obama Charting a New Mideast Peace Course?

Now that the United States has officially abandoned its attempt to convince Israel to stop building settlements for just a little while, please?, everyone is waiting for Plan B. Those who still hope for a peaceful resolution to the Middle East conflict are hoping that the Plan B will include an American assertion of its positions, at least on the matter of borders.

Well, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was supposed to present Plan B on December 10 at the Saban Center of the Brookings Institute in Washington. But while her speech was more even-handed than what we’ve gotten used to, it

Ehud Barak and Hillary Rodham Clinton

was too short on specifics to be said to really mark a new direction. She reinforced the US commitment to Israeli security and the two-state solution and claims that, through renewed shuttle diplomacy, the US would facilitate continued negotiations that are purported to tackle all of the core issues.

The familiarity of her statements cannot but breed contempt, but there were a few hopeful signs. The first one was the Israelis in attendance. Defense Minister Ehud Barak and opposition leader Tzipi Livni, the two most prominent leaders vying for Benjamin Netanyahu’s job, represented Israel. That can easily be interpreted as a public American recognition that the current Israeli government, and its leader, is not interested in peace, which is, of course, true. There was also the clearest endorsement yet for the Arab Peace Initiative, and for the most part, Clinton put more than the usual onus on Israel.

Still, the Obama administration continues to repeat the mantra: “…negotiations between the parties is the only path that will succeed in securing their respective aspirations.”

It is, of course, true that there are details that must be worked out between Israelis and Palestinians, but if there is one myth that the Obama administration has shown the emptiness of, it is this holy grail of bilateral negotiations. It is time we examine the assumptions that underlie that axiom. Continue reading