President Obama has clearly approved Secretary Kerry’s decision to focus a major portion of his first six months as Secretary of State on trying to re-start the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. This initiative actually appears to beginning to have some success, although again when Israel agrees to the terms to return to the table again the Palestinians may concoct new objections and pre-conditions. The transparency of this behavior not only gives Israel continued reason to question the viability of any negotiations or decisions which might be reached, but it should also provide even the most optimistic of forces in Washington with a sense of what is really transpiring within a Palestinian camp that continues to be unable to bite the bullet on accepting Israeli as a legitimate state; hopefully this time it will be different. We may learn more when the sides meet next week in Washington.
What is striking about the energy and time being devoted by Obama through Kerry to this issue is the fact that in the Middle East alone—to say nothing about elsewhere in the world—there are numerous issues which have the genuine potential to erupt and to which much less attention is being given by the Administration. The President knows that he can do little or nothing about Egypt, Syria, Libya, Iran, and Pakistan. As far as Turkey, Iraq, and Afghanistan are concerned the White House may have some influence but not much. This leaves, therefore, only Israel; despite the fact that the potential dangers in so many of the other parts of the region are far greater.
The worst mistake in the entire thinking which apparently still persists in some circles in Washington is that if a way can be found to create a two state solution between Israel and the Palestinians it will have a positive effect on other regional problems. The fact is that while it will stabilize the status of the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians, it will have no impact on Hezbollah, Hamas, President Assad, the Egyptian military, Iraqi-Kurdish peace, or the rump Government in Libya. The continued militancy in the Muslim world and its growth, spread and political influence will not be affected by this effort. For the U.S., the political/security issues presented throughout the region will not be impacted by resolving the two state solution, but, hopefully, it might give Israel and the Palestinians some quiet.