Thursday, February 05, 2009

Obama Being Advised To Pursue A Minimalist Approach In Israel-Palestinian Conflict

In Is Support For The Two State Solution Dying, I quoted from an article in The Christian Science Monitor that indicated that on the government level at least, there were signs that Europe was growing increasingly wary of the creating a Palestinian State.

Now there are indications that other voices closer to home are joining the chorus, from unexpected places during a Wednesday meeting Obama had with Clinton and George Mitchell and Mideast experts.

One of them was Robert Malley, who was an Obama adviser during the campaign until he was let go. At the time, he was viewed with suspicion by the Jewish community. In yesterday's meeting, he opposed the aggressive approach that Obama favors. 

Robert Mally:
"The basic agreement, I think, is that none of us is going to recommend, and, in fact, all us will recommend against, rushing towards a grand, comprehensive, end-of-conflict deal between Israelis and Palestinians," he said. "I think you will hear that we don't think that the time is ripe at this point for an end-of-conflict, comprehensive agreement between the Israeli people and the Palestinian people."

Malley said that all of the parameters that guided the Clinton administration's peace efforts in the 1990s have shifted. He said there are no longer two coherent entities that could sign a peace treaty, if one were forged. He noted Israel's election next Tuesday, with polls showing hardliner and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the frontrunner. But Malley also cited the fact that there is no longer a national Palestinian movement with which to negotiate.
Aaron David Miller, who recently wrote a piece for Newsweek entitled If Obama Is Serious
He should get tough with Israel
. He was an advisor to 6 different Secretaries of State from 1978-2003.

According to Miller:
"This region, as best I can understand it, hates big ideas. Particularly those big ideas imposed, crafted or orchestrated from outside. And frankly, transformative diplomacy was the essence of the previous administration's approach to this region. Regime change, democratization, grand bargains, grand rhetoric, one-size-fits-all," he said.

Instead, Miller called for "transactional diplomacy" based on small, pragmatic steps like getting Israel to open up Gaza for reconstruction efforts. Miller said President Obama should save his "big ideas" for dealing with the economic crisis in the United States, and take small, incremental steps in the Middle East.
This from 2 people who would have been expected to advise Obama along the lines that he has publicly talked about.

The third adviser, Robert Satloff, the Executive Director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy advised Obama:
"Don't pursue the peace process for the wrong reasons. Don't pursue the peace process for illusionary, romantic reasons. The peace process is not a solution to the problem of global terrorism. The peace process will not dry up recruits to al-Qaida in Pakistan or Yemen or Somalia," he said.

Satloff said the Obama administration should also learn from the mistakes of past U.S. administrations and not try to look for a "perfect" Palestinian leader.

"Don't play the Palestinian leadership game," he said. "Don't try to identify, pick, and put on a pedestal our chosen Palestinian leader. We have tried this. This is always a losing effort."
Satloff's point about the illusory effects that a comprehensive peace in the Middle East will provide dovetails with an article Malley co-wrote entitled How Not to Make Peace in the Middle East, where Malley goes so far as to espouse actual heresy, suggesting that:
basic issues should first be addressed. Among them are the reasons for recurring failures, the effectiveness of US mediation, the wisdom and realism of seeking a comprehensive, across-the-board settlement of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, or even the centrality of that conflict to US interests and the benefits that would accrue to America from its resolution.
Imagine if Obama actual reverses course and pursues a minimalist approach to the Israel-Palestinian conflict instead of aggressively pursuing an overall solution, possibly based on the Saudi Plan.

If Obama would follow the advice from these 3 advisers, that would be Change. It would not mean that pressure would not continue to be applied to Israel to make concessions, but the stakes would be different and perhaps make it possible to properly address Iran and its proxies.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

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