Wednesday, September 21, 2011


The so-called "peace process" had ground to a halt.  The White House was diverted by other issues, for instance the sputtering U.S. economy, Libya, Afghanistan to name a few. The principal US officials still involved processing peace, not least the affable but ineffectual Dennis Ross, were occasionally trying to bunt their way to first base, but they typically struck out.

Now the Palestinian initiative at the UN has jarred the US into action, but what is the Obama White House doing other than corroborating its diplomatic isolation with Israel?  The prospect of the US casting a veto to thwart a step that will likely increase pressure on Israel to negotiate responsibly is a stunning paradox, especially at the time when Israel is led by a government that has demonstrated little, if any commitment to a feasible two-state solution.  The US is using its sharp diplomatic elbows to deter support for the Palestine initiative, but there is no evidence that the US is doing much poking in Israel.

Of course, there is an attempt to deter Mahmoud Abbas with a statement by the Quartet, but that statement, at least as presently drafted, it is deeply flawed and it is unlikely to win Palestinian assent.  

US and Israeli interests are not identical, and it is worrying that that simple reality is contentious in Washington.  Given the wider US interests in the Middle East, especially considering the momentous political upheavals in the Middle East, it will be very damaging for the U.S. to cast a veto, which is why Obama and Co. are trying to kill the issue before it gets to the UNSC. What the US should be working to attain is a context in which the issue of Palestinian membership in the UN is met by a US abstention rather than a veto.  

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