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Obama's Middle East Policy Making Skeptics of Believers

800px-Barack_Obama_at_Cairo_UniversityThe Washington Post is following the lead of the NYT’s bleak new take on the White House’s Middle East policy. As Libya seethes, Egypt crashes, and Syria burns, fewer and fewer of the President’s erstwhile disciples in the media understand his administration’s continuing fixation on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The WaPo editorial board writes:

The intense focus of Secretary of State John F. Kerry on the long-moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace process when neighboring Egypt is collapsing into chaos and Syria’s civil war rages unabated provokes more than a little head-scratching among diplomats from the Middle East. What, they ask us, could possibly possess Mr. Kerry to so intently pursue such an unpromising initiative, even as the United States refuses to exert leadership on crises of paramount importance to the region? […]

Like previous failed U.S. initiatives, Mr. Kerry’s diplomacy ignores the powerful Hamas movement, which controls the Gaza Strip, opposes a peace deal and is capable of disrupting negotiations at any time by resuming missile attacks against Israel. Mr. Kerry banks on the support of Arab states, but two of Israel’s Arab neighbors have no functioning government, while the other two — Jordan and Lebanon — have been all but overwhelmed by the spillover of refugees and fighting from Syria.

The MSM’s newfound skeptics may have some more meat to chew on this week, as Secretary Kerry reportedly plans to return to Jerusalem and Ramallah for talks—his sixth visit to the region in three months. More interestingly, Haaretz reports on some details in the Secretary’s plan:

The London-based Arabic-language daily Al-Hayat reported on Saturday that Kerry has formulated a plan to renew talks whereby Israel would freeze construction outside the major settlement blocs, release 103 Palestinian prisoners within six months, advance Palestinian economic projects in Area C of the West Bank ‏(the area under full Israeli civilian and security control‏), and that the talks would be based on the 1967 borders.

One Palestinian official gave an insight into how well this might play among the Palestinian brass:

A Palestinian official told Haaretz that, even if the plan has been correctly reported, this does not mean the Palestinians will accept it as is. The Palestinians particularly object to recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, and to a construction freeze only outside the large settlement blocs, the official said.

There are some understandable and even commendable reasons for maintaining the peace process as a priority in US Middle East policy. And the Middle East is a place where surprises can happen. But we hope the White House is paying attention: Even some of its staunchest fans don’t see much logic in the current policy mix.

*NOTE: CBS News reported last night that Secretary Kerry’s wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, arrived at a Boston hospital in critical condition, which could potentially derail the Secretary’s plans. We wish the Secretary the best, and Mrs. Kerry a speedy recovery.

[Image of President Obama at Cairo University courtesy of Wikimedia]

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  • Corlyss

    “The MSM’s newfound skeptics may have some more meat to chew on this week,”

    The problem with their tardy discovery is that 1) they talk about their reservations like they feel guilty even bringing up the fact that the policy makes no sense, cuz, ya know, he IS the nation’s first black president and they still love him deeply; and 2) if they devoted even just half the venom to Obama’s policies that they did to Bush’s, well, their friends wouldn’t invite them to parties any more.

    This past weekend Book TV ran an old interview (2000) with Harry Stein in which he talked about the character of the media of which he still considers himself a member even tho’ most of his colleagues won’t associate with him now that he’s become a conservative. Many of the points he makes are fairly instructive: 1) his attitudes changed when he got married and had kids; 2) the problems with so many institutions today is that Boomers now run them; 3) the media honestly believe that no intelligent person would possibly disagree with them; 4) hit jobs were a regular feature of the student press in his day and in their early careers in journalism when nobody but like minded juveniles read their product (and by implication, those same junior reporters with no sense of balance or fairness are now stars of the mainstream media). It’s worth rehearing.

  • USNK2

    It’s not as if the NYT or WaPo can connect the dots with what all that is happening, but I appreciate Sec. Kerry’s efforts to support Jordan, which was already hosting large numbers of Iraqi Christian refugees (as was Syria).
    I don’t think western legacy media understands the Bedouin populations in Jordan, Egypt’s Sinai, and Israel are not the same as palestinians.

    First, drop the belief that there are ‘1967 borders’.
    Second, put today in a 100-year perspective, including Sykes-Picot.
    The dilemma of transitioning to a multi-polar world is that the world in 2013 continues to be defined by great land empires, e.g.,China and India, AND the unfinished legacy of post-colonial Britain, France, Russia, Italy, and, the Ottomans; a legacy of bad mapmaking that makes American gerrymandering harmless in comparison.

  • Richard Finlay

    Fortunately for the media critics, they finally have a Secretary of State who is a legitimate target of criticism.

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