Thursday, September 22, 2011

US Sidelined in the "Peace Process"

Again, the NYT nails the story:

 A last-ditch American effort to head off a Palestinian bid for membership in the United Nations faltered. President Obama tried to qualify his own call, just a year ago, for a Palestinian state. And President Nicolas Sarkozy of France stepped forcefully into the void, with a proposal that pointedly repudiated Mr. Obama’s approach.

The extraordinary tableau Wednesday at the United Nations underscored a stark new reality: the United States is facing the prospect of having to share, or even cede, its decades-long role as the architect of Middle East peacemaking. . . .

American diplomats turned their attention to how to navigate a new era in which questions of Palestinian statehood are squarely on the global diplomatic agenda. There used to be three relevant players in any Middle East peace effort: the Palestinians, Israel and the United States. But expansions of settlements in the West Bank and a hardening of Israeli attitudes have isolated Israel and its main backer, the United States. Dissension among Palestinian factions has undermined the prospect for a new accord as well.

Finally, Washington politics has limited Mr. Obama’s ability to try to break the logjam if that means appearing to distance himself from Israel. Republicans have mounted a challenge to lure away Jewish voters who supported Democrats in the past, after some Jewish leaders sharply criticized Mr. Obama for trying to push Israel too hard.

The result has been two and a half years of stagnation on the Middle East peace front that has left Arabs — and many world leaders — frustrated, and ready to try an alternative to the American-centric approach that has prevailed since the 1970s.

“The U.S. cannot lead on an issue that it is so boxed in on by its domestic politics,” said Daniel Levy, a former Israeli peace negotiator in the government of Ehud Barak. “And therefore, with the region in such rapid upheaval and the two-state solution dying, as long as the U.S. is paralyzed, others are going to have to step up.”

It's indeed beyond sad that an American president whose message of change and hope helped net him the Nobel Peace Prize at the start of his presidency now presides over the marginalizing of the United States in the attempts to resolve a struggle that has been a centerpiece of American diplomacy for more than 60 years.  To a great extent, Obama has been held hostage by the ignorance and bias of millions of American Christians.  But it was also his failure to measure up to the forcefulness of Mr. Netanyahu  when Bibi refused to halt settlement building in the West Bank, and then flouted that refusal to discredit and humble a young, inexperienced president, that brought Obama's presidency - and the US's credibility - to this low point.

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