Why the Peace Process Will Continue – Michael Doran (Mosaic)
(dailyalert.org, May 21, 2014)
It is obvious that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is hardly the most pressing problem in the Middle East. Conservative estimates now put the total number killed in the Syrian civil war at more than the number the Arab-Jewish conflict has caused over almost a century.
The 1948 and 1967 Arab-Israeli wars produced, together, approximately a million Arab refugees. In the case of Syria, the UN has already registered 2.7 million refugees, and this figure does not include people who have been driven from their homes but who have found refuge inside Syria. Those numbers would more than double the UN’s count.
Yet, if the last five years are anything to go by, the American president will not abandon his quest to broker a peace agreement between Palestinians and Israelis. Why?
One purpose of the peace process is to mitigate damage to American interests by broadcasting the good intentions of America toward all Muslims. Even if it is destined to fail, the show must go on, for merely by existing it refutes the allegation that the U.S. is partial to Jews and prejudiced against Muslims.
John Kerry recently expressed his deep concern that Israel is at risk of becoming an “apartheid state.” On another occasion, he voiced his fear that Israeli policies are laying the groundwork for a third intifada. On still another, he worried about the strength of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement (BDS). The message in each case is that Israel is on the road to ruin, and its best friends are those who understand it, who love it, and who will rush to save it – from itself.
On one level, this neatly sidesteps the commonsensical observation that peacemaking in the current circumstances is nonsensical by generating a sense of urgency to forge ahead; after all, no one blames the fireman who rushes, against all odds, to save a burning house.
On another level, it helps keep Netanyahu distracted and tied up; the tighter he is wrapped around the Palestinian axle, the more freedom of movement Obama will enjoy on Iran. And so, the very special brand of love that prompts the Obama administration to rescue Israel from itself is likely to be increasingly on display as the debate over the Iran negotiations heats up.
The writer, a senior fellow of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, is a former deputy assistant secretary of defense and a former senior director of the National Security Council in the George W. Bush administration.