Friday, May 11, 2012

Looking Back At The Middle East Advice Obama Has Ignored

Yesterday, I blogged that Obama met with radical anti-Israel media people for advice on Israel--including Peter Beinart, New Yorker‘s David Remnick and Time magazine’s Joe Klein.

Up to that point, the main media people Obama had been looking to for advice were Thomas Friedman and Fareed Zakaria.

But maybe what really stands out is not the anti-Israel advisers that Obama is resorting to, but rather the expert advice that Obama has ignored.

Back in February, 2009, Voice of America reported Experts Dampen Expectations of Israeli-Palestinian Peace Deal, and if you take a look at the advice offered--it was right on the money. Looking back, these people were right and Obama did exactly what they advised him not to do.
At the time, there was a meeting of Arab-Israeli experts at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington--including Robert Satloff, the Executive Director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Robert Malley with the International Crisis Group in Washington, and Aaron David Miller, who served as an adviser to six secretaries of state.

"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." [emphasis added]
Obama has not followed either of these 2 suggestions.

"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."

..."We no longer have the ability to be taken seriously," he said. "Now that could very quickly shift as well, and President Obama has the capacity to do so. But we can't, we can't imagine today, that simply just because the U.S. puts its imprimatur on a deal that it would be accepted."
Two more suggestions--both ignored.

"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.
This came before the Arab Spring, and based on current events, we can see that he was right--and that Obama has ignored this suggestion as well.

The suggestions offered by these experts back in February 2009:
  • Peace between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs will not bring peace and stability to the region
  • Don't pin your hopes on a Palestinian leader
  • Now is not the time for a comprehensive peace plan
  • A peace deal will not be accepted just because the US decides it is time
  • The Middle East is resistant to the idea of democratization
Yet, Obama decided upon becoming President that he would make peace a priority. He pinned his hopes on Abbas. Obama jumped right in and thought that his speech in Cairo would allow him get the Arabs behind him. Obama and his administration also thought that the Arab Spring was a unique opportunity for democracy and change in the Middle East.

Obama was wrong.

But on the bright side, by taking advice from Beinart, Klein and Remnick--Obama can ignore reality and keep on thinking the way he has been till now.

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