Kicking the Peace Can Down The Road

If the next President is a student of history and not a masochist, he or she is highly unlikely to dabble in Middle East peacemaking unless both sides come to the White House with a convincing case that they are ready to get serious. And even then caution would be well advised.

President 45 will have the benefit of knowing that all attempts by previous presidents have left an unpleasant residue and often proved a political liability. 

President Barack Obama learned that from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Obama stumbled right out of the starting blocks and never got his stride. He didn't get any help from the two leaders, who only reluctantly went to the negotiating table for a brief and futile round of talks.  Obama left a second term attempt to his secretary of state, John Kerry. Same players, same results.

Obama may not be ready or willing to admit it, but he is ready to leave trying to broker peace between the Israelis and Palestinians to his successor. 

Unless the Israelis and Palestinians plead for help, the next president is likely to find far better ways to spend his or her time.  What the new leader in the White House will need is new leaders in the Middle East with the courage to take the risks and make the tough decisions essential to peace.

A Republican president will find it easier to resist the temptation to become a peacemaker than the Democrats because of the GOP's basic pro-Likud positions and because most of the party's fundraising and small voter base is on the far right, where voices like billionaire Sheldon Adelson, the party's largest Jewish contributor, is rabidly anti-Palestinian statehood and pro-Netanyahu.

Republicans tend to focus their outreach to Jewish supporters by stressing their hardline positions on Israel because so much of their political agenda tends to be very conservative and does not resonate with Jewish voters.

Democrats, who usually win 75-80 percent of Jewish votes, have a broader appeal on domestic issues to Jewish voters, and those voters are much more supportive of the two-state approach to Mideast peace

Secretary of State Kerry said it is time to take a time out to think about where to go next. 

The first postmortem on the Kerry initiative was written by Israeli journalist Nahum Barnea in the Hebrew daily Yediot Ahronot.  It is based on an interview with an unnamed senior American official, who is widely believed to be Martin Indyk, the former U.S. ambassador to Israel who headed Kerry's negotiating team.  Indyk, a former colleague of mine at AIPAC who went on to head the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, is reportedly resigning his post to return to the Brookings Institution. 

Barnea's source contends "the main damage to the peace talks came from the settlements" and "sabotage" by several leading figures in the Netanyahu government.

Both Netanyahu and Abbas showed little flexibility, he wrote. Ultimately, the talks failed because neither side was really committed to their success.

With his emphasis on where Israel went wrong, he overlooked the problems created by Palestinian incitement, unwavering maximalist demands, a refusal to extend the talks, bypassing the negotiating table by going to the U.N. and joining various agencies and agreements, threatening to file war crimes charges against Israel at the International Criminal Court and the new alliance with Hamas, an anti-Semitic terror group that opposes peace and calls for the destruction of the Jewish state 

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.