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The President and the Peace Process
Obama Takes Fresh Tilt at Windmill

ISIS holds its “caliphate” in Syria and Iraq, Yemen and Libya are burning, Turkey is falling into despotism, Russia is on the march in Europe and the Middle East, and China is acting as aggressively as ever in the South China Sea. And in the White House, they observe all of this, and think—wouldn’t it be a great time to take another crack at the Israel-Palestine peace process? The Wall Street Journal reports:

The [White House’s] internal discussions are aimed at offering a blueprint for future Israeli-Palestinian talks in a bid to advance a critical foreign-policy initiative that has made little progress during Mr. Obama’s two terms in the White House, the officials said.

The strongest element on the list of options under consideration would be U.S. support for a Security Council resolution calling on both sides to compromise on key issues, something Israel had opposed and Washington has repeatedly vetoed in the past.

Other initiatives could include a presidential speech and a joint statement from the Middle East Quartet, an international group comprising the U.S., the United Nations, the European Union and Russia.

A senior administration official said no final decisions have been made and that Mr. Obama is considering a range of possibilities. The timing of any new White House move hasn’t been determined, but officials said it would be later this year.

The push comes as Vice President Biden visits Israel and Palestine—and as the Palestinians are in the middle of a “stabbing Intifada.” Indeed, a Palestinian attacker killed an American tourist yesterday. The push also comes with the backing of the French, who have been pushing for some form of U.N.-mandated Israeli recognition of Palestine for some time now. Notably absent from those who are interested in serious negotiations right now: Israel and the Palestinians.

Absent too: the Sunni Arabs. Riyadh is friendly with Jerusalem these days, not least due to mutual distrust of the last deal the White House negotiated in the region. And the issues in the Middle East that concern the regional powers—the Sunni-Shi’a battles in Syria and Iraq, the Kurdish struggles for nationalism, and the Iranian-Saudi proxy war in Yemen—are not linked to the Israel-Palestine Conflict, except in the mind of a certain type of Western liberal.

And so one of the few places this is seen as somehow the right move at the right time is the White House, which has periodically returned to chase this dream when it’s run out of ideas elsewhere. As we wrote in November, the last time the Administration considered making a Peace Process push:

[F]or John Kerry (and other Western diplomats just like him), going back to the Arab-Israeli negotiating table isn’t driven by external need. Not even he can think that resolving the border between Israel and the West Bank is the key to peace in the Middle East anymore. This is the Secretary going to his Happy Place—where there are Nobel Peace Prizes to be won, an age-old diplomatic puzzle to be resolved, and most of all, familiar problems to be confronted with familiar tools.

It’s all so very comfortable. But that’s not the world we live in anymore. Time for Secretary Kerry—and the rest—to wake up. And maybe tell the pilot to change course for Ankara.

We imagine this attempt will have about the same long-term impact on Israeli-Palestinian peace as that attempt did, too. And it’s worth noting that Turkey is in even worse shape now than it was then. There’s still time to pay attention to issues that matter, where good might be done—if anyone cares to.

Otherwise, good luck with the next tilt against the windmill.

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