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Posted at 8:30 AM ET, 12/17/2010

What next in the Middle East?

By Jennifer Rubin

Since Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's speech last week on the demise of the "peace process," pro-Israel activists and lawmakers have been trying to figure out what the administration is up to, and what it can do next.

A leader of an American Jewish organization that enjoys a good relationship with the administration expressed surprise and dismay to me this week that the Obama team has not gotten more serious about pursuing the so-called Fayyed plan, which focuses on building up the West Bank economy and helping to create civil Palestinian institutions. He wondered why the administration wasn't willing to pony up not only big dollars, but experts to work on that endeavor.

Likewise, an experienced Middle East negotiator who is in contact with the parties tells me that, with regard to the Fayyed plan, administration officials "will say they support this 100 percent. Hillary did, in her Friday speech. Thing is, they do not mean it. [George] Mitchell is uninterested in this." The negotiator urges the administration to refocus its efforts. "The administration should be doing much more," he says. "Think what they could have gotten done had the energy they put into the [settlements] freeze been instead put into improving the Palestinian quality of life."

The lack of interest here seems like a lost opportunity. Understandably, administration officials would want to keep up the facade that talks, albeit indirect, are ongoing. This avoids a loss of face for the administration and might help to stave off efforts for a unilateral declaration and recognition of a Palestinian state. But still, one wonders why a fruitful and low-risk approach, one that actually had great success during the Bush administration, has essentially been back-burnered. It is another sign, perhaps, that those in charge of the Obama Middle East team are badly in over their heads.

By Jennifer Rubin  | December 17, 2010; 8:30 AM ET
Categories:  American Jews, Hillary Clinton, Israel  
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Comments

In so many other areas the Obama administration had grudgingly followed the Bush administration's approach, after exhausting the alternatives. Is it too much to hope that they'll do so in this area as well?

Peter Shalen

Posted by: shalen | December 17, 2010 9:24 AM | Report abuse


If the israelis were truly interested in building up the West Bank economy and helping to create civil Palestinian institutions, they would pull all of their people out and turn all of the West Bank back over to the Palestinians.

Posted by: Thoughtful-Ted | December 17, 2010 10:49 AM | Report abuse

"He wondered why the administration wasn't willing to pony up not only big dollars, but experts to work on that endeavor."

You mean the nation-building stuff that has worked for us exactly nowhere in the world since South Korea more than 50 years ago?



"But still, one wonders why a fruitful and low-risk approach, one that actually had great success during the Bush administration, has essentially been back-burnered. It is another sign, perhaps, that those in charge of the Obama Middle East team are badly in over their heads."

Oh, you must be referring to the "success" that led to the surprise free election of Hamas in Gaza and the de-facto partition of Palestinian authority between Hamas in Gaza and Abbas in the West Bank.

Yes, that was an all-time great one!

Posted by: 54465446 | December 17, 2010 11:40 AM | Report abuse

shalen wrote:

"In so many other areas the Obama administration had grudgingly followed the Bush administration's approach, after exhausting the alternatives. Is it too much to hope that they'll do so in this area as well?"

Well Peter that would be one headline, but a more realistic headline from people with actual knowledge would read something like this:

OBAMA ADMISITRATION FINDS EXTRICATING THE NATION FROM BUSH ADMINISTRATION FOREIGN POLICY MESSES MUCH MORE DIFFICULT THAN ANTICIPATED

Please allow me to write your reply for you.

1) everything is Obama's fault

2) nothing that happened before January 2009 matters

3)everyhing that goes on in the future is Obama's fault

4) the ONLY reason that Israelis and Palestinians can't agree on peace is the Obama administration

That about covers it!


Posted by: 54465446 | December 17, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

I think it is extremely important the US demonstrate that it can force Israel to keep the previous commitments to halt settlement construction made at Oslo and under the Road Map if the US is to continue to act as a mediator.

The PA has done a respectable job of upholding its previous commitments to the extent of their ability and in light of Israeli impediments in the areas it controls, while Israel's government has done all it can not abide by its previous commitments though illegal settlement construction, failure to dismantle illegal outposts and ongoing appropriation (theft) of Palestinian land in the occupied Palestinian West Bank.

If the US is unwilling or incapable of getting Israel to keep its previous promises, there is absolutely no reason for the Palestinians to believe that the US will be able to deliver on any future promises made by Israel either, which leaves a situation where by the US must step aside and let the EU or UN take over in resolving this matter if peace is ever to be achieved.

Posted by: JDGillis | December 17, 2010 6:34 PM | Report abuse

Of course the elephant in the room that no diplomat ever seems to want to discuss is the Gaza Strip Hamas/Iran Islamist autocracy and the real possibility that with Palestinian statehood in the other Disputed Territories, Hamas could be elected to power there as well.
And this is no small matter, given the almost daily unprovoked Hamas mortar and missile attacks on Southern Israel and attempted terrorist infiltrations into Israel.
I would personally like to hear what Secretary Clinton and President Obama have in mind for the Fayyad plan which could potentially lead to a Hamas/Iran take over?
This is a real and immediate issue, and has definite impact on whatever peace settlement might be reached.

Posted by: Beniyyar | December 18, 2010 12:37 PM | Report abuse

"He wondered why the administration wasn't willing to pony up not only big dollars, but experts to work on that endeavor."

AS I understand it, that would require Congress and the Senate to pass the legislation to do so, which Jennifer's friends at AIPAC would ensure was killed in the House.

After all, HR 1765 just passed, which explicitly rejects the recognition of any declaration of independence as per Fayyed's plan. And now, we have Cantor's pledge to Netenyahu that he would cripple Obama and cut foreign aid (except for Israel of course).

I'm sur Jennifer knows about this but is feigning ignorance.

Posted by: AndreDeAngelis | December 20, 2010 6:14 AM | Report abuse

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