American pro-Israel groups, mostly an echo chamber for the Netanyahu government in Jerusalem, have jumped on the “don’t present a U.S. peace plan” refrain like ants jump on picnic scraps. But a longtime Israeli diplomat has different ideas.
Alon Pinkas, writing in today’s Politico, said that “After more than 17 years of direct Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, you know something has gone terribly wrong when all you can hold, maybe, is a strange setup called ‘proximity talks.’”
Strange, indeed; special envoy George Mitchell sounds more like a mailman than a negotiator.
What’s needed now isn’t just out-of-the-box thinking, he argues; we need a whole new box. And that box should involve a “comprehensive, detailed and viable peace plan for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — if not a plan, then a bold vision with concrete principles and parameters. And yes, the sides are encouraged to make changes. But there should be a timetable.”
Blasphemy! How soon will American Jewish right-wingers label Pinkas anti-Israel?
But Pinkas bravely soldiers on.
“President Barack Obama, who lucidly defined the resolution of the conflict as a vital U.S. national security interest, should not be too cautious or overly sensitive to the intricacies of Israeli and Palestinian politics,” he argues. “We have seen this movie several times — and the ending does not change.”
He makes a clear distinction: a “U.S.-sponsored plan — whether written by the Obama administration or presented by the “Quartet” (the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia) — is not an imposed peace. You cannot impose peace, and you cannot enforce sustainability or guarantee durability.”
The “peace process,” he writes, has grown into a “bureaucracy. The less the process accomplished, the bigger the bureaucracy grew.” Only a smart U.S. or Quartet plan, he said, can break through an “industry [that] became all about the process. The process now floats aimlessly between being a maintenance tool, designed to prevent hostilities, and a colossal exercise in futility that precipitates violence.”
The tragedy, he says, is that “both [Israel and the Palestinians] know what needs to be done. Obama should say so.”
I always thought Pinkas was one of Israel’s most effective diplomats. This op-ed isn’t going to win him any popularity contests, but it effectively argues that what pro-Israel groups here want the most – a continuation of the diplomatic status quo, with no pressure on Israel, no real leadership from Washington, just diplomatic babysitting – just isn’t going to work.