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Going, Going, Gone

By Roger Cohen, New York Times

via New York Times (Click for original)
JERUSALEM — Among the minor fiascoes of the Obama administration’s foreign policy, the rapid White House-to-wipe-out course of Middle Eastern diplomacy in recent weeks rates high.
No U.S. president should invest his personal capital by inaugurating direct talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders when those talks are set to abort weeks later over an issue — Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank — that’s long been sitting there like a big truck on the road.
Yet that’s what President Barack Obama has just done, allowing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to snub a personal request that a 10-month moratorium on building in the West Bank be extended in the interests of negotiation. Palestine can’t get born if the land for it keeps eroding.
The amateurish air of desperation attending this unseemly sequence has now given way to the outright desperation of American-Israeli horse-trading over what concessions, guarantees, blandishments, military hardware et al. the United States might offer Israel in exchange for a 60-day extension of said moratorium.
The only positive note is that it seems nobody wants the process to unravel terminally. Arab states have given the United States until early November to barter; the Palestinians have pressed pause rather than stop; Israel is eyeing tactical advantage. If talks are to resume, and I expect they will, here are 10 key pointers:
1) The United States, in seeking to draw Israel back to the table, needs to be very careful not to give itself the opposite problem by crossing Palestinian red lines. The promise of U.S. support for a long-term Israeli security presence in the strategic Jordan Valley — one idea that’s been aired — would do that. As one senior European official said, “You can be incredibly creative about security provided Palestinians don’t wake up the day after they have a state and find they still have an occupation.”
2) If the Palestinians overplay their hand by opting for unilateralism they will add another big mistake to a long chapter of strategic errors. Abandoning talks in favor of seeking recognition of independence from international bodies like the United Nations for a Palestinian state would take Palestine-in-waiting down a blind alley. Such recognition, if attainable, would not open roads, deliver water, create ports or airports, enhance security, remove Israeli troops or usher Palestinians from unsustainable victimhood to viable sovereignty. It’s the “fix” that solves nothing.
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