Obama’s “Moribund” Middle East Peace Plan

- September 19, 2012

THEN: In 2008, Obama Said As President He Would Make Middle East Peace A Top Priority. OBAMA: "As president, I will work to help Israel achieve the goal of two states, a Jewish state of Israel and a Palestinian state, living side by side in peace and security. And I won't wait until the waning days of my presidency. I will take an active role, and make a personal commitment to do all I can to advance the cause of peace from the start of my administration." (Senator Barack Obama, Remarks At The AIPAC Policy Conference, Washington, D.C. 6/4/08)

NOW: Obama In 2012: "I Have Not Been Able To Move The Peace Process Forward In The Middle East The Way I Wanted." OBAMA: "Well, you know, the truth is that the things I can do, um, without Congress tend to be in the foreign policy area. And, you know, in that area I have not been able to move the peace process forward in the Middle East the way I wanted. It's something we focused on very early. But the truth of the matter is, is that the parties, ultimately, they've got to want it as well." ( WJLA-ABC, 7/15/12)

After Four Years Of Mismanagement And Delay, Obama Has Failed To Move The Middle East Peace Process Forward

Though Obama Claimed To "Understand The Nuances" Of The Middle East Peace Process, "His Attempts To Bring The Two Sides Together Failed In His First Term." "According to three people who were at the meeting, and to notes recounted by one of them, Obama sought to reassure the skeptical attendees, telling them, 'Don't think we don't understand the nuances of the current issues. We do.' But it was his response a few minutes later that came to define his administration's relationship with Israel - and the reason many in the room that day, and even more outside of it, believe that his attempts to bring the two sides together failed in his first term." (Scott Wilson, "Where Obama Failed On Forging Peace In The Middle East," The Washington Post, 7/14/12)

  • The Obama Administration Is "Either Unwilling Or Unable To Push The Two Sides To The Bargaining Table Or Stop Them From Taking Actions That Further Damage The Prospects For Relaunching Moribund Peace Talks." "Palestinians are pressing their bid for recognition at the United Nations and membership in U.N. agencies. The Israelis respond by accelerating settlement activity and withholding Palestinian tax revenue. The Obama administration is either unwilling or unable to push the two sides to the bargaining table or stop them from taking actions that further damage the prospects for relaunching moribund peace talks." (Matthew Lee, "Analysis: Obama Mideast Policy Adrift Amid Crises," The Associated Press, 11/3/11)

Obama's Strategy For The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict "Has Been Stalled And Sometimes Poorly Executed." "Even the most sympathetic observer of the administration's efforts on the Israel-Palestinian issue would have to concede the diplomacy has been stalled and sometimes poorly executed." (Glenn Kessler, "Obama and Israel: Stalled Diplomacy Or 'Suspicion And Distrust'?" The Washington Post's "Fact Checker" , 7/11/11)

  • Obama's First Year Peace Process Lacked Any Foresight, He Took On Israeli Settlements Before Securing A Deal With Israel. "Peacemaking takes strategic skill. But we see no sign that President Obama and Mr. Mitchell were thinking more than one move down the board. The president went public with his demand for a full freeze on settlements before securing Israel's commitment. And he and his aides apparently had no plan for what they would do if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said no." (Editorial, "Diplomacy 101," The New York Times, 11/27/09)
  • The Washington Post : "The Administration Has Few, If Any, Achievements To Brag About Despite Having Invested Significant Diplomatic Capital In The Israeli-Palestinian Issue." "After 2 ½ years, the administration has few, if any, achievements to brag about despite having invested significant diplomatic capital in the Israeli-Palestinian issue. If anything, one could make a case that the two sides are further apart because of the administration's actions, though, to be fair, ultimately it is up to the Israelis and Palestinians to make peace, not the United States." (Glenn Kessler, "Obama and Israel: Stalled Diplomacy Or 'Suspicion And Distrust'?" The Washington Post's "Fact Checker" , 7/11/11)
  • "Even Some Of The President's Closest Foreign Policy Allies Concede There Is Little, If Anything, To Show For The Administration's Intense Early Efforts To Broker Peace." (Josh Gerstein, "Obama Shifts Mideast Message," Politico, 5/18/11)

Obama's "Tough Love" Policies Toward Israel Have Backfired And Damaged U.S. Standing In The Region

The Obama Administration's "Tough Love" Policy Toward Israel Was Not "As Grounded In The Realities Of The Current Conflict As It Should Have Been." "'I have some very smart people advising me on this,' Obama told the Jewish leaders in that first meeting at the White House in July 2009, turning to Emanuel. 'We understand there is a profound political edge to Israeli politics. Rahm understands the politics there and he explains them to me.' To many in the administration, Emanuel's instinct was one of 'tough love' toward Israel. 'But his depth may not have been as grounded in the realities of the current conflict as it should have been,' said a senior administration official, who worked on the Israeli-Palestinian issue." (Scott Wilson, "Where Obama Failed On Forging Peace In The Middle East," The Washington Post, 7/14/12)

  • Obama's Pressure On Israel "Backfired" And "Appeared To Let The Palestinians Off The Hook." "U.S. pressure at the time also backfired because it appeared to let the Palestinians off the hook. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas refused to enter into direct talks before a settlement freeze, even though he had done so before. The administration had to settle for indirect talks, with Mitchell shuttling back and forth. The recent disagreement has set back that effort." (Glenn Kessler, "Dispute With Israel Underscores Limits Of U.S. Power, A Shifting Alliance," The Washington Post, 3/24/10)
  • Obama Caused The "Biggest Strains In A Decade" Between Israel And U.S. "Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking is a major part of Obama's effort to repair America's image in the Muslim world… But his administration has made little headway in clearing obstacles to the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip… Relations between Washington and close ally Israel are under the biggest strains in a decade." (Matt Spetalnick and Jeffrey Heller, "Hopes Low For Obama-Led Mideast Summit In New York," Reuters, 9/22/09)

"Obama's Lack Of Progress In Changing The U.S. Image In The Region Stems From His Inability" To Resolve The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. "In part, Obama's lack of progress in changing the U.S. image in the region stems from his inability to make headway on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, despite promises to make it a priority." (Karen DeYoung And Scott Wilson, "Libya Attack Represents Challenge For Obama," The Washington Post , 9/13/12)

  • Obama's Political Mistakes And "Outdated View" Of The Conflict Contributed To His Failure To Move The Peace Process Forward. "The way Obama managed the Israeli-Palestinian issue exhibited many of the hallmarks that have defined his first term. It began with a bid for historic change. But it foundered ultimately on his political and tactical misjudgments, on a lack of trusted relationships and on an outdated view of a conflict that many of his closest advisers imparted to him. And those advisers - veterans of the Middle East peace issue - clashed among themselves over tactics and turf." (Scott Wilson, "Where Obama Failed On Forging Peace In The Middle East," The Washington Post , 7/14/12)

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