The Folly of Obama’s Mideast ‘Peace’ Push

January 8, 2014 7:51 am 0 comments

President Barack Obama meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the Oval Office in 2009. Photo: White House.

The breaking news that al Qaeda has captured Fallujah and Ramadi raises the question whether America’s sacrifices in Iraq were made in vain. It also highlights the utter inadequacy of President Obama’s Middle East policy, especially his disregard for critical regional threats.

Instead, Obama has focused on Israeli-Palestinian issues, essentially to no avail. Despite Secretary of State John Kerry’s repeated visits, including one just ended, the “peace process” has seen no significant movement.

Proponents of “peace processing” ignore this reality, asserting that the process itself has an inherent value, and that real movement comes only when deadlines loom and decision-makers realize “it’s now or never” to “take risks for peace” and achieve “a peace for the brave.” And when all else fails, peace processers say, “What have we got to lose?”

Such rhetoric might be appealing initially, but it is in fact utterly hollow. The entirely predictable unraveling of Obama’s current effort is neither novel nor surprising. What is surprising is the near-religious faith peace processers still profess, despite the overwhelming contrary evidence. It’s therefore critical to note the negative consequences of their approach — because there is indeed much to lose by continuing to follow their strategy.

Diplomacy, like all human activity, has costs as well as benefits. The obsessive focus on Israeli-Palestinian issues incurs what economists call “opportunity costs” — namely, the lost opportunity to concentrate on other issues of greater importance or where there are better chances for progress. This is a decidedly serious problem.

The most immediate costs fall on the parties themselves, especially Palestinians, used and abused for decades not by Israel, but by Middle Eastern radicals who’ve made “Palestine” the point of their attack against Israel’s very existence.

With attention diverted from repeated failures to create legitimate, representative institutions of governance, Palestinians have been left with a corrupt, ineffective Palestinian Authority, no functioning economy, few useful economic skills, precious little foreign investment and a dependency existence fostered by UN and other relief programs.

The vaunted “international community” should feel only shame for emphasizing the mirage of “Palestine” instead of the basic economic aspirations of individual Palestinians.

As a result of all this, there is simply no Palestinian entity that can make and implement the kinds of commitments necessary to sustain a true peace agreement. This is the basic reason why the current Obama-Kerry effort must inevitably fail.

Individual Palestinian leaders may perform responsibly, not simply grasping for wealth and power, but they alone can’t provide adequate assurances of sustaining any agreement over time.

Israel, in turn, faces even graver problems, notably Iran’s nuclear-weapons program, resurgent terrorism and the failure of the Arab Spring. Every hour spent talking to Secretary Kerry about West Bank apartment construction is an hour not spent addressing these more serious issues.

US time and resources are also being diverted from other, more-pressing international problems, not least of which are elsewhere in the Middle East. Iran’s nuclear-weapons program is not merely or even primarily Israel’s problem, it is America’s. Unfortunately, Obama’s administration is making the same mistake as its predecessors by trying (and failing) to negotiate Iran out of its nuclear ambitions.

But even beyond that, Obama’s misjudgments and inattention are imperiling the entire region. Libya is dissolving partly because Obama lost interest once Khadafy was overthrown, leading to the Sept. 11, 2012, murders in Benghazi, which remain unavenged and unresolved 16 months later. Syria is not only in chaos, but so too is Obama’s Syria policy, incoherent to the point of embarrassment for almost three years.

There is turmoil across North Africa as Islamic extremists and militants threaten existing governments. South Sudan is collapsing in civil war and others seem destined to follow. And, again, there is al Qaeda’s resurgence in Iraq.

More globally, of course, are the serious problems of Chinese territorial aggrandizement in Asia; Russian efforts to re-establish hegemony in Ukraine, the Caucasus and other former Soviet states, as well as North Korea’s threatening nuclear-weapons program.

The list is long. For Obama to focus on Israel-Palestinian issues to the effective exclusion of others more pressing in the short run and more consequential in the long run therefore imposes high costs on the United States and future administrations.

Finally, there is always the danger that, as the “peace process” deadline approaches, the White House will try to impose a solution on Israel. If so, some will undoubtedly hail it as representing success for Obama’s efforts, but that would be pure propaganda.

The parties must themselves not only want peace, as former Secretary of State Jim Baker repeatedly emphasized, but they must also both be capable of it. Until those conditions are met, peace processing is not just wasteful but potentially dangerous.

John Bolton is a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. This article was originally published by the New York Post.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Spirituality/Tradition Removing Jesus’ Jewish Identity From Artwork

    Removing Jesus’ Jewish Identity From Artwork

    In a strong statement that challenges the historic divide between Christianity and Judaism, Pope Francis recently proclaimed, “Inside every Christian is a Jew.” But if you look at Renaissance artworks that depict Jesus, you will not find any evidence of a Jew inside the Christianized Jesus — even though the Gospels in the New Testament tell us that Jesus was Jewish to the core. Getting that point across to the public is a daunting task, as I learned in interviews I [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Personalities Recycling His Roots

    Recycling His Roots

    JNS.org – Having started his career playing on his family’s pots and pans, Jewish musician Billy Jonas has maintained this homemade performance ethic while spreading his messages of simple living and environmentalism to a shared home throughout the world. After beginning in the kitchen, Jonas soon moved to the music room, where he picked up the piano, guitar, and trombone. These days, the multi-talented multi-instrumentalist plays on with pretty much anything he can find, including cans, bottles buckets, and other recycled-object [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Personalities Jewish Renewal Movement Founder’s Insights Form a New Guide for Senior Living

    Jewish Renewal Movement Founder’s Insights Form a New Guide for Senior Living

    JNS.org – Sara Davidson’s The December Project is a new book that should be read by all senior citizens, and by those who hope to live a long life, for it raises a question that most of us have not been taught how to answer: What should we do in that final stage of our lives? Many of us continue working past the traditional retirement age of 65, not because we need the money and not because we find the [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish History Why the Holocaust Occurred in Germany, and Why So Few Resisted (REVIEW)

    Why the Holocaust Occurred in Germany, and Why So Few Resisted (REVIEW)

    It’s hard to make a new contribution to the field of Holocaust studies,  but German historian Götz Aly accomplishes just that in Why the Germans, Why the Jews? His premise is that the origins of the Holocaust were rooted in the specific anti-Semitism found in Germany in the decades and centuries before World War II. Aly (who is not Jewish) seeks to prove his theory by studying only pre-Holocaust history, and tracing how the German people’s envy and hatred of [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Looking at Anti-Israel Celebrities and Their Brands

    Looking at Anti-Israel Celebrities and Their Brands

    JNS.org – During the current conflict in Gaza a number of celebrities have voiced their opinions in support of either the Israeli or Palestinian positions. But others—be it during Operation Protective Edge or at other times—have gone further than simply supporting the Palestinians by actively supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, making false accusations about the Jewish state, ignoring Israel’s position on the conflict, or justifying the actions of the terrorist group Hamas. Many of these [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Sports Israeli UFC Fighter Returns to Jewish State to Rejoin IDF

    Israeli UFC Fighter Returns to Jewish State to Rejoin IDF

    JNS.org – Days after winning his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) featherweight bout against Steven Siler on July 26, Israeli-born mixed martial arts competitor Noad Lahat boarded a plane for his native country, choosing to temporarily exit UFC’s octagonal cage to rejoin the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) as a paratrooper for its operation against Hamas in Gaza. Except he didn’t actually consider it a choice. “When [our] home is in danger, there is no other way for us [but to serve [...]

    Read more →
  • Education Why We Should Invest in Jewish Children

    Why We Should Invest in Jewish Children

    JNS.org – My wife Suzy and I will never forget our wedding day. It was not just the uplifting ceremony and beautiful party that left an indelible mark. Some life-altering advice that we received from one of our guests informed and shaped our lives from that day forward. My high school teacher, Rabbi Moshe Yagid, pulled us aside just before the chuppah and challenged us to choose one mitzvah that would be the foundation of our marriage and our lives. He explained [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports LeBron James’ New Coach Shaped by Summer on Kibbutz and Jewish ‘Life Lessons’

    LeBron James’ New Coach Shaped by Summer on Kibbutz and Jewish ‘Life Lessons’

    JNS.org – Influenced by his Jewish upbringing and a summer on a kibbutz, basketball coach David Blatt is embarking on his highest-profile challenge yet: coaching LeBron James, the four-time National Basketball Association (NBA) Most Valuable Player who has made waves for returning to his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. After guiding Israel’s storied Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball franchise to its 51st Israeli league championship and 6th Euroleague title this past season, Blatt landed the Cavaliers head-coaching job in June. Just weeks later, [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.