Pressing for Israel-PA Negotiations? Obama Sets Himself Up for Mideast Failure, Again

Last September, President Barack Obama -- with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas standing nearby -- said that there would be direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in Washington by November 2009.

It didn’t happen.

The media didn’t ridicule the Obama administration or point to this failure. Too bad. That kind of behavior by the media plays a positive role -- in this case, teaching the president to be more circumspect and skeptical about rapid progress. Moreover, the president of the United States should never say that something is going to happen unless he knows that it will happen.

Now, in July 2010, the president is pressing for direct negotiations by the end of September: "And my hope is, is that once direct talks have begun, well before the moratorium  [Israeli construction freeze that ends in September] has expired, that that will create a climate in which everybody feels a greater investment in success."

But is there any reason that this deadline will be met? No.

Israel is eager for direct talks; the PA keeps finding excuses for opposing them. Now it wants Israel to state its positions on borders and security measures before any talks can start. Yet what would happen if Israel did so? The PA would state that they are excessive, and thus refuse to enter direct talks.

True, the U.S. government is putting on some pressure to convince the PA to change its stance. Yet this limited pressure may well not be sufficient. The PA knows that the White House won’t go too far in this effort and will never publicly denounce the PA for its obduracy (whereas it would not hesitate -- as we have seen -- to criticize Israel).

Thus, the PA has ample reason to believe that if it does nothing, nothing will happen to it.