The Obama administration’s statements about the Israeli-Palestinian peace process have a surreal quality about them. It’s as if nobody in the administration (or the media for that matter) stops to consider how Obama’s own policies have affected the prospects for peace.
The two-state solution has been in a coma since Arafat rejected Clinton’s final offer at Camp David and returned to unleash the al-Aqsa Intifada, which killed 1,000 Israelis and left the Labor party and its supporters deeply skeptical of both the peace process and of the intentions of the Arabs. The disastrous results of the withdrawals from Lebanon (2000) and Gaza (2005) turned that skepticism into mortal fear. Now you have an Israeli army populated by 18-year-olds who grew up knowing only that their Palestinian neighbors want to murder them and their families, and will do so if given the chance.
Even under those difficult circumstances, however, it would have been possible to start shaping the strategic foundations for a peace agreement. It would have been possible, for example, to diminish extremists among the Palestinians, chiefly by cutting Hamas and Hezbollah off from their remaining source of support, Iran. It might have been possible to help ensure the ascendancy of moderate elements in the Syrian resistance. It was certainly possible to maintain America’s priceless military presence in Iraq, and with it the alliance of moderate Sunnis and moderate Shiites at the heart of America’s alliance with that long-suffering country. Achievements on these fronts were necessary preconditions to two-state solution.
But instead Obama has pushed all of those factors in the opposite direction. Compared with 2009, when he came to office, Obama has not only done nothing to make the two-state solution possible, he has done a great deal to make it even more unlikely. It’s not just the capitulation to Iran’s nuclear-weapons program — it’s everything he’s doing in the Middle East: the catastrophic withdrawal from Iraq, the failure to do anything about Syria, the mistreatment of the Israeli government, all of it. Yet Obama gets angry at the government of Israel, which has no power to change any of those strategic factors, and threatens to punish it for merely pointing out the abundantly obvious fact that the two-state solution has become a pie in the sky.
Under Obama, the United States has only undermined the prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace. That is the elephant in the room when it comes to U.S.-Israeli relations, and the media should start contending with it.