MideastWeb Middle East Web Log

log  archives  middle east  maps  history   documents   countries   books   encyclopedia   culture   dialogue   links    timeline   donations 

Search:

U.S. Middle East Policy - Going Where?

01/27/2009

This year there was no Crystal Ball assessment. It seemed unwise to pretend to know what the Obama administration will do with any accuracy, though that didn't prevent a lot of people from doing it.

The appointment of George Mitchell has been interpreted by all the tea leaf readers as a sign that the US will be "actively involved" and that it will be evenhanded. A lot of emphasis is placed on Mitchell's Lebanese ancestry and the nature of his recommendations in the 2001 Mitchell Report, so Mitchell is seen as "anti-Israel" or at least not "pro-Israel." It might mean that, but then again, it might not. Simliiarly, President Obama's (Better get used to that, "President Obama") statement that he is going to pursue Middle East peace aggressively is taken at face value by many.

Permit me to inject a note of skepticism. George Mitchell's previous role in the Middle East was not stellar, and did not symbolize an aggressive policy. We may argue about whether the Mitchell Report was too pro-Israel or too pro-Palestinian, but there is no argument about the result of that report, which was absolutely nothing, nada and zilch. Far from symbolizing aggressive policy, Mitchell seems to personify inertness rather than initiative and signal impotence rather than importance. Mitchell's brief is not to propose a new peace process, but to listen to the sides and to focus on stopping arms smuggling and stabilizing the situation in Gaza.

There is something peculiar about all this. If Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden really are clueless about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict after all this time, then sending George Mitchell to listen to the sides is not going to help them get up to speed. If they haven't formed opinions then they are really slow learners. If you are going to pursue a policy aggressively, then you just do it. You don't announce you are going to do it and then send someone to listen and then set up a committee to study the problem.

The idea that the ethnic origin of a particular envoy is going to determine policy is usually naive at best. It is true that when Stalin wanted to sign a pact with Hitler, he replaced Jewish foreign minister Litvinoff with Molotov, but that was an exceptional and extreme case. If the Obama administration is contemplating bitter medicine for Israel, they would probably be wise enough to send Dennis Ross or someone else who is identified with Israeli interests to administer that medicine.

In a well-ordered administration, tails do not wag dogs. Policy is made by governments and implemented with the help of ambassadors and emissaries. Emissaries do not make policy. Any U.S. policy initiative, if it is going to come, will have to come out of the White House or the State Department, not delivered through a special emissary of any kind. A dramatic policy change must be fully and clearly enunciated and it must have behind it the auctoritas* and gravitas of a major leader - the President or the Secretary of State. There is not much sense in enunciating such policy right now, because the Israeli government will shortly be changed, and because nobody knows what really is the Palestinian government. So reports of an Obama Middle East initiative are premature. I am not saying this won't happen, but there is no sign at all that it did happen or that it is about to happen, and there is also no scenario for what such a peace initiative could contain.

It is not clear how the Obama administration could aggressively pursue a peace settlement unless they are ready to force some very unpleasant and unlikely changes. For example, Palestinians do not agree to recognize any Israeli national rights in East Jerusalem. It is hard to imagine an Israeli government led by Benjamin Netanyahu giving up a square millimeter of East Jerusalem, and preposterous to imagine that it would give up all of East Jerusalem. Palestinians insist on Right of Return for refugees. Not just in theory, but as a matter of practical implementation. It is had to imagine any Israeli government that would ever agree to that. Moreover, as long as Hamas is in power in the Gaza strip, they are sure to veto any peace agreement no matter what contents it might have. That is their declared ideological and religious policy, and it is backed by the pragmatic considerations of their Iranian sponsors, who are anxious to torpedo any U.S. sponsored peace process.

The only party to the conflct that the Obama administration can really control or pressure in any way is Israel. Hamas will not listen to them, and Mahmoud Abbas probably could not deliver the PLO for a real compromise agreement. An Obama administration initiative could not bring peace. It could however, get Israel to freeze settlement growth at least in sensitive areas and force Israel to remove the infamous illegal outposts. Both of these were obsessions of George Mitchell in 2001. These concessions would not be a security risk for Israel and they would allow the US to show Arabs that it had accomplished something for the Palestinian cause. They would also bolster the fortunes and legitimacy of the West Bank Palestinian Authority, which is an American protege, as opposed to the Iranian sponsored Hamas. It is not realistic to expect any more than that, and it might be equally unrealistic to expect less than that from an administration wishing to advance its prestige in the Middle East. The downside of that course is that any right wing Israeli government that agreed to those moves would probably be turned out by its constituents in favor of an even more right wing government.

An Obama administration initiative might also take the form of an overture to Syria, but that doesn't seem likely in the near future. It is not likely either, that a Netanyahu administration will be forthcoming with concessions to Syria. Therefore, the future of "peace initiatives" does not look bright. However, those who still believe Barack Obama can really walk on water are hoping he will surprise us.

Ami Isseroff



*Auctoritas is a Latin word meaning auctoritas, and not to be confused with the word "authority" in English. In addition to authority, it conveys the connotations of respect, awe and leadership.


If you like this post - click to Reddit!
add to del.icio.usAdd to digg - digg it

Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000745.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

by Moderator @ 03:30 PM CST [Link]

NEWS

Middle East e-Zine

Midde East News

Opinion Digest

Late Updates

REFERENCE

Middle East Glossary

Middle East Maps

Middle East Books

Middle East Documents

Israel-Palestine History

Israel-Palestine Timeline

Middle East Countries

Middle East Economy

Middle East Population

Middle East Health

Zionism History

Palestinian Parties

Palestinian Refugees

Peace Plans

Water

Middle East

  

Blog Links

OneVoice - Israeli-Palestinian Peace Blog

Bravo411 -Info Freedom

Israel News

Oceanguy

Michael Brenner

Dutchblog Israel

Dutch - IMO (Israel & Midden-Oosten) Blog (NL)

GulfReporter

Israpundit

Alas, a Blog

Little Green Footballs

Blue Truth

Fresno Zionism

Reut Blog

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Blog

Simply Jews: Judaism and Israel

Jeff Weintraub - Commentaries and Controversies

Vital Perspective

ZioNation

Meretz USA Weblog

normblog

MIDEAST observer

On the Contrary

Blogger News Network- BNN

Google Sex Maps

Demediacratic Nation

Realistic Dove

Tulip - Israeli-Palestinian Trade Union Assoc.

On the Face

Israel Palestjnen (Dutch)

Middle East Analysis

Israel: Like This, As If

Middle East Analysis

Mid_East Journal

Z-Word Blog

Dvar Dea

SEO for Everyone


Web Sites & Pages

Israeli-Palestinian Procon

End Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: One Voice

Democratiya

ATFP- American Task Force on Palestine

Americans For Peace Now

Shalom Achshav

Chicago Peace Now

Nemashim

Peacechild Israel

Bridges of Peace

PEACE Watch

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Z-Word

Zionism

Zionism and Israel

Zionism and Israel on the Web

Israel - Palestina:Midden-Oosten Conflict + Zionisme

IsraŽl in de Media

Euston Manifesto

New Year Peace

Jew

Christian Zionism

Jew Hate

Space Shuttle Blog

Israel News Magazine

SEO


My Ecosystem Details
International Affairs Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory

Link 2 us
We link 2 U.
MidEastWeb- Middle East News & Views
MidEastWeb is not responsible for the content of linked Web sites


Replies: 1 Comment

I hope you are one who hopes Obama might yet surprise us with a successful peace initiative.

Cheers.

Posted by Kiev500 @ 02/12/2009 03:44 AM CST


Please do not leave notes for MidEastWeb editors here. Hyperlinks are not displayed. We may delete or abridge comments that are longer than 250 words, or consist entirely of material copied from other sources, and we shall delete comments with obscene or racist content or commercial advertisements. Comments should adhere to Mideastweb Guidelines . IPs of offenders will be banned.

Powered By Greymatter

[Previous entry: "War in Gaza: Another Take"] Main Index [Next entry: "Lieberman: Israel careening to the right"]

ALL PREVIOUS MidEastWeb Middle East LOG ENTRIES

Thank you for visiting MidEastWeb - Middle East.
If you like what you see here, tell others about the MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log - www.mideastweb.org/log/.

Contact Us

Copyright

Editors' contributions are copyright by the authors and MidEastWeb for Coexistence RA.
Please link to main article pages and tell your friends about MidEastWeb. Do not copy MidEastWeb materials to your Web Site. That is a violation of our copyright. Click for copyright policy.
MidEastWeb and the editors are not responsible for content of visitors' comments.
Please report any comments that are offensive or racist.

Editors can log in by clicking here

Technorati Profile

RSS FeedRSS feed Add to Amphetadesk Add to Amphetadesk

USA Credit Card - Donate to MidEastWeb  On-Line - Help us live and grow