Today Americans for Peace Now launched a campaign urging the Obama administration to “re-focus on achieving Israeli-Palestinian peace.” (See the group's "Action Plan for President Obama" here.)
What I wonder: does the new effort reflect a sense that conditions are favorable for a renewed U.S. peace push? Or is it simply the result of dread that President Obama, facing an uncertain economy at home, trench warfare with the Republicans over federal spending and a difficult fight for reelection next year, may be moving in the opposite direction?
APN is urging the President to “personally take control of his Middle East peace policy, to enunciate the clear principles on which he expects a peace agreement to be made, and to directly engage Israelis and Palestinians, in person, during a trip to the region.”
The group points to the obvious gap between Obama's lofty rhetoric about U.S. peacemaking at the start of his administration and the way he has mostly delegated implementation to underlings.
“President Obama's first phone calls from the Oval office more than two years ago were to Palestinian President Abbas and to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu,” said APN CEO Debra DeLee. “Since then, however, his personal involvement in Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking has all but dissipated. And recently, the administration’s efforts on this issue seem to have shifted from conflict resolution to conflict management. This is a mistake. There is no managing this conflict. The situation can quickly escalate, as recent developments show.”
She goes on: “There is broad support both in the Israeli and Palestinian public, and in the international community for a two-state solution.”
That may be right, but it seems to me it's the wrong question. The right question is this: do Israelis and Palestinians see enough urgency to the peacemaking effort to support the compromises real movement in the peace process will require?
I don't know the answer, but I see few signs either public sees an urgent need to get back into peace talks, even though both support – in theory – a two-state solution.
These have to be discouraging times for groups like APN that see active negotiations as critical to Israel's future. The Palestinians don't seem much interested in talks, preferring instead to run to the UN for help, a divided, contentious Israel leadership is more interested in local politics and the U.S. administration has a lot of other things on its mind.
I'm guessing APN doesn't believe their call to renewed U.S. action will be heeded – but that its leaders are hoping to avoid even more slippage in the Obama administration’s commitment to the issue as 2012 draws closer and U.S. peacemaking efforts in the region slip further off the White House radars.
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