October 11, 2009

US again fails to restart Middle East peace talks

In a rather surprising turn of events - given the fact that President Obama was just awarded the Nobel Peace Prize - special Middle East envoy George Mitchell left the region without a commitment for the Israelis and Palestinians to resume talks.

This is not a failure of an initiative, it is the failure to even begin an initiative. The best Mitchell could get was a promise for two low-level Israeli diplomats to travel to Washington later this week for "further discussions." The Palestinians have declined to participate.

Unfortunately, the President has had few - actually zero - successes in his "change" or "reset" foreign policies, especially in the Middle East. His overtures to Iran have been soundly rebuffed at every turn - the talks earlier this month about the Iranian nuclear program yielded nothing but a promise for more talks. Likewise, the Administration efforts to engage Syria have failed - Bashar al-Asad and his Ba'th regime remain firmly allied to Iran.

Attempts to help mediate between the Israelis and the Palestinians over Gaza have gone nowhere. American allies Jordan and Saudi Arabia have refused to engage in any kind of comprehensive talks about Israel. Lebanon has come increasingly under the thumb of Hizballah.

In Israel, almost always on the other side of Obama's initiatives, the leadership is not inclined to acquiesce to American demands that will move the peace process forward. They need to agree to a return of the Golan Heights and agree to some curtailment of the expansion of settlements on the West Bank. At some point they will, but not anytime soon, given the perceived slant of this Administration to side with the Iranians, Syrians and Palestinians - at their expense.

To many observers of the Middle East, it would appear that the Nobel Peace Prize was premature, given the failure of the Administration on virtually every front of peace in the region. Then, what do we expect from the legislature of a country that has been a mediocre NATO ally at best? These are the same people that granted this award to the likes of Yasir 'Arafat, Menachem Begin, Nelson Mandela, Kofi Annan....

Maybe I should be patient and wait for the news from Oslo to reach Damascus, Jerusalem, Ramallah, Tehran, Riyadh, and Amman that the Nobel committee has spoken and they are to fall in line.

After all, has it not been ordained that Obama will bring peace to the Middle East?