Barack Obama got off to a promising start in the Middle East. He prioritized the war in Afghanistan, delivered a fine speech in Cairo, in which he called upon Muslims to end “the cycle of suspicion and discord”, and he appointed special envoys to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Israel-Palestine.
Almost a year later, there are few results. Even the Obama-friendly New York Times must admit his credibility in the region has “diminished”.
The awkward strategy of publicly demanding a settlement freeze from the Israelis and getting none has deadlocked Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking. The administration “apparently had no plan for what they would do if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said no.”
Netanyahu offered a compromise: a ten-month freeze, exempting Jerusalem and the construction of schools, synagogues and 3,000 homes that were already under construction. Although this went far beyond anything Israel had offered in the past, Obama insisted on more and strengthened the Palestinians in their resolve. They rejected the offer.
Neighboring Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, now refuse to play ball until Israel stops building settlements altogether. The goal of getting Israelis and Palestinians to talk again seems more distant than ever.
The Times still has hope and claims Obama has “no choice but to keep trying.”
“Stalemate is unsustainable,” according to the paper. The Israelis may not feel the same way.