Another round of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, another predictable failure–Israel has suspended talks in response to Fatah and Hamas reconciling and preparing plans to forge an interim “national consensus” government whose ministers will be independent of either faction. It’s an undeniable sign that Israel isn’t interested in peace since the Israeli government before insisted that no agreement was possible while the Palestinians were divided. This breakdown is so negative that now President Obama is talking of a pause in the U.S.-led effort where Washington will step back and let both parties find their own way forward. Obama hasn’t given up entirely and America’s peace team will continue to offer proposals to get them to “walk through the door.” Taking this hands-off approach, however, comes across as the Obama administration getting walloped once again by this obdurate conflict. It will surely be spun that way in the analyses of the commentariat but what they don’t know is the White House took a dive.
The conflict was never meant to be solved this time around and Kerry’s crusade was a ruse for an elaborate trap. The administration failed on purpose because Israel has upheld their end of the bargain and sufficiently backed off on Iran. It was no coincidence that when Israel-Palestinian talks were on the brink of collapse earlier this month, there simultaneously sprouted up encouraging news on the Iran front. At the end of his visit to Israel, Bloomberg reported General Martin Dempsey as saying that “Israel’s view of how soon Iran will gain a nuclear-weapon capability has become much closer to that of officials in Washington.” The news kept getting better when it was announced that Iran and the P5+1 were to start drafting the final deal in May and that concerns about the Arak plant were settled. In return for not raising hell over these developments, the U.S. is rewarding Israel by laying off I-P and will scuttle these talks in such a way that no side faces blame and some slight progress is made for a future, serious international effort.
A comprehensive nuclear accord with Iran is in the bag. The hawks are well aware that they will go down in defeat and have begun looking beyond the final deal. James Jeffrey and David Pollock of WINEP wrote about ways to handle Iran post-agreement. Former General David Petraeus envisions a “day after” scenario where the U.S. clamps down in the Middle East to counter a re-charged Iran. This forward thinking is why those who are worried about Congress not lifting the nuclear-related sanctions shouldn’t be. This battle has already been won. But what swayed the legislators? I think the administration convinced anti-deal hawks behind-the-scenes that becoming friendly rivals with Iran is best for the faltering American empire. Further, the U.S.’s global influence is on the wane and if jittery hawks wish to shore up Washington as the world’s leader they would do well to ensure our diplomatic reputation doesn’t take a nosedive because an intransigent Congress torpedoes a deal that everyone else wants.
The administration has won on Iran and consequently has left I-P adrift in the wind. What should be done if the Israelis and Palestinians fail to walk through Obama’s door? The New York Times Editorial board thinks the U.S. should wash its hands of I-P, writing “It is time for the administration to lay down the principles it believes must undergird a two-state solution” and move on. This is the requiem for the U.S. led peace process but its passing will go unlamented by the world as the U.S.’s monopolization of the process is what has lead to decades of deadlock. Indeed, doing nothing might be for the best since a neutral US would not interfere with the avalanche of international pressure on Israel to choose between two states or one.
And don’t think Washington will be able to come to the rescue even if it doesn’t become neutral. Should the two state solution be seen to have irremediably collapsed there would be much support for a democratic one state solution amongst the US public. President Harry Truman once wrote to Bartley Crum that a bi-national state “was the correct solution, and, I think, eventually we are going to get it worked out just that way.” Well, it has taken nearly seventy years but I daresay Truman will be proven right.