Despite the flurry of initial applause from groups ranging from AIPAC to J Street to the Israel Project to the American Task Force for Palestine that direct negotiations were resuming between Israel and Palestine, pessimism has been the order of the day since. As one senior White House official recently told me, this just gets us back to the previously messy status quo.
One has to give credit to President Obama for not ducking this problem — which he probably could, at least for a while. Obama chose Senator George Mitchell on his second day in office, pushed a showdown which he lost on settlements with Prime Minister Netanyahu, made the lack of progress between Israel and Palestine a key point of focus during his September 2009 UN General Assembly remarks, and is now inviting regional leaders as well as Quartet Representative Tony Blair to give this effort another shove.
By cajoling the Palestinians and Israelis to engage, Barack Obama is again putting himself in the vulnerable position of another potential battle with Israel’s Prime Minister — and this time Obama can’t afford to lose.
As with Khrushchev and Kennedy, the Soviet premier took the first couple of rounds — but Kennedy came out on top.
Beyond what ultimately happens in these peace talks, Obama needs to prevail over any pugnacious obstinacy by Netanyahu.
— Steve Clemons