Voice

A dangerous moment of foreign policy fatigue

Going against all past blog experiences, I though it might be worth posting about Israel and Palestine today.  Reading the tea leaves, the situation there is clearly getting more dire, and I'm not sure if there is a politically viable option for U.S. diplomats. 

The domestic politics within Israel favor the continuation of the status quo -- that is to say, no freeze on the housing settlements and a sustain crackdown on Palestinians in Jerusalem.  It doesn't take an NSF grant to know that politicians do not reverse course on policies that generate massive domestic support.  The Obama administration, after talking tough in the spring, seems unready or unwilling to apply greater levers of pressure against Netanyahu.  So, we have status quo ante. 

Meanwhile, the Palestinian frustration with this status quo has translated into greater support for Hamas, rumblings about a third intifada, and Abu Mazen threatening to quit

Neither side seems remotely ready or willing to negotiate. So, here's my question -- if you're Barack Obama, what do you do at this juncture?   Is this one of those moments when all sides might be better off staring into the abyss of abject noncooperation? 

I don't know, I really don't.  I do know that sometimes agreements cannot be reached unless adversaries get a better appreciation of the counterfactual of no agreement.  It might cause both the Israelis and the Palestinians to recognize that they are stuck with each other. 

On the other hand, this is also one of those moments when diplomatic fatigue can cause actors to throw up their hands in frustration and assume that things couldn't possible get any worse.  Except, of course, they could.  And there are ways in which a renewed uprising would be to the Middle East as the collapse of Lehman Brothers was to the global financial system. 

So, my question to readers:  is this a moment for the U.S. to double down in efforts to restart an Israel/Palestinian dialogue, or is this a moment for stepping back? 

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