The Best Possible Team at the Worst Possible Time

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This is a guest post by Amjad Atallah, Co-Director of the New America Foundation/Middle East Task Force.
The Israeli elections are not really over. In one sense they are just beginning, as Israel’s multiple winners and multiple losers begin horse-trading on their conditions for joining a coalition government that will “govern” Israel over the next several months in the loosest sense of the word. One thing both Livni and Netanyahu will likely agree on – the need to continue colonizing the West Bank with settlements while urging the United States to confront Iran. What we won’t hear is any real talk about a game changing end of conflict that would bring security and acceptance to Israel and freedom and dignity to Palestinians.
That is a tragedy on a number of levels, but especially because the United States is compiling the best possible team we could have at this time to deal with the threat to our national interests posed by a continuation of the Israeli-Arab conflict. President Barack Obama is, by all accounts, as intellectually engaged with the complexities of the region and how they impact American interests as as any president since Eisenhower. He has compiled a team at the State Department and the National Security Council of hard headed realists committed to promoting US interests in the Middle East who recognize many of the linkages between ending Israel’s occupations, a successful US withdrawal from Iraq, a successful negotiation of our relationship with Iran, our wars in Afghanistan/Pakistan, and bringing al-Qaeda to justice.
But on the Israeli-Palestinian front, this A-Team is coming in at the worst possible time. Both the Israeli and Palestinian political systems are fractured. Some 65 seats in Israel’s 120 Knesset now are held by parties either explicitly opposed to a two-state solution or who interpret it in such a racist way that it would be unconscionable for the US to support. On the other side of the Green Line, Israel’s destruction of Gaza has made Hamas more popular than ever in the West Bank and broadened their appeal internationally. Eight years of Bush policy have strengthened the most recalcitrant elements on both sides of the border.
To secure our interests now, we not only need a diplomatic A-Team, but a drastic and creative new policy that works with the reality that we can’t expect the Israelis and Palestinians to end this conflict on their own.
For more, you can listen to this discussion between Aaron Miller, and Yossi Klein Halevi, and me on the Diane Rehm show.
–Amjad Atallah

Comments

5 comments on “The Best Possible Team at the Worst Possible Time

  1. Dan Kervick says:

    WigWag is right. Gates is some kind of realist; and I assume that might be true of Jones as well. But Clinton, Rice and Biden are liberals, with a strong interventionist streak. Rice is particularly noted for her liberal interventionism.

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  2. DonS says:

    Interesting: “Free Palestine”, in the Bronx, N.Y. The long reach of the Israeli press.
    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1063418.html
    “Jews against the occupation”. A banner by a group expressing an understanding of what it is like to be “sealed behind barbed wire”,

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  3. WigWag says:

    “He has compiled a team at the State Department and the National Security Council of hard headed realists committed to promoting US interests in the Middle East who recognize many of the linkages between ending Israel’s occupations, a successful US withdrawal from Iraq, a successful negotiation of our relationship with Iran, our wars in Afghanistan/Pakistan, and bringing al-Qaeda to justice.”
    “Eight years of Bush policy have strengthened the most recalcitrant elements on both sides of the border.”
    I don’t doubt that eight years of Bush policies have empowered recalcitrant Israeli and Palestinian politicians but Amjad Atallah appears recalcitrant himself when confronted with the necessity of facing reality. Hard headed realists are directing foreign policy and national security policy for the Obama administration? Really?
    I’ll acknowledge that maybe Secretary Gates has realist leanings, but does Hillary Clinton? What about Joe Biden or George Mitchell? Are James Steinberg and Susan Rice “hard-headed” realists? Richard Holbrooke is a hard-headed realist? Really?
    Perhaps Mr. Atallah will enlighten us as to exactly whom the “hard headed realists” directing Middle East diplomacy will be.

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  4. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Money talks. Cut off the aid to Israel.
    Pffft. No more money. Act in the interests of peace, or else.
    What incentive does Israel have for good faith peace efforts when these buffoons like Reid and Pelosi think we pay our taxes so we can subsidize Israels effoprts to slaughter, starve, and dehumanize the Palestinians?
    Of course, who’s going to line the pockets of our Congress people if we cut off the billions we piss away on Israel??

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  5. Dan Kervick says:

    “But on the Israeli-Palestinian front, this A-Team is coming in at the worst possible time. Both the Israeli and Palestinian political systems are fractured. Some 65 seats in Israel’s 120 Knesset now are held by parties either explicitly opposed to a two-state solution or who interpret it in such a racist way that it would be unconscionable for the US to support. On the other side of the Green Line, Israel’s destruction of Gaza has made Hamas more popular than ever in the West Bank and broadened their appeal internationally. Eight years of Bush policy have strengthened the most recalcitrant elements on both sides of the border.”
    Well, one way to look at it is that this weakness and fragmentation provide a power vaccuum for a foreign leader who is willing to step up, seize the day and take charge of a degenerating situation.
    I predicted otherwise. But hopefully Steve was right about the opportunities presented by Netanyahu; not me.

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