U.S. Should Step Aside as Mideast Broker
The United States is the arbitrator who sleeps with and solicits bribes from the more powerful disputant and fixes outcomes accordingly. Given the U.S. mantra that it cannot want peace more than the parties themselves and that negotiations without preconditions are the only acceptable formula — meaning that Israel has a veto over every decision large and small — it is high time the Obama administration makes room for the many who value peace more than occupation.
Since the 1970s, the international community has routinely prescribed a two-state settlement to resolve this prolonged conflict. It took the United States until the 21st century to join the community of nations in endorsing a Palestinian state, though this never went beyond the declarative level.
Indeed, the main achievement of the diplomatic process initiated by Washington in 1991 and monopolized by it ever since has been the exponential acceleration of Israel's illegal settlement enterprise.
Last month, the PLO submitted an application for U.N. membership for the missing state to the Security Council. In response, Washington all but declared a global state of alert. The ferocity of its campaign to deny Palestinian statehood, including the credible threat of yet another veto on Israel's behalf, the incessant bullying of friend and foe alike and punitive congressional sanctions, conclusively demonstrate that the United States is incapable of mediating anything other than a one-state outcome.
This raises the question of why Washington remains so committed to extending its perfect record of abysmal failure. The answer increasingly provided by Palestinians and Arabs alike is that the United States is devoted to its monopoly precisely because it views its involvement as a success – for itself and Israel — at the Palestinians' and the international community's expense. If there are indeed other factors that explain why Washington opposes even a symbolic Palestinian diplomatic initiative, and goes rabid at the very suggestion of multilateralism, these have yet to be persuasively presented.
Not all successful mediators are neutral, yet America's seemingly limitless devotion to the colonizer against the colonized cries out for a counterweight. To the extent Washington succeeds in excluding other actors from the equation, it will increasingly be called to account by the region's citizens. As Tunisia's Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Egypt's Hosni Mubarak and other trusted American friends are forced to make room for more representative leaderships, Washington's startling incongruence with the spirit of the times is creating a massive problem for itself.
To retain what prospects remain for a constructive relationship with the Arab world, Obama and Washington politicians would do well to follow the president's own advice to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad: If he cannot lead, he should follow; and if he refuses, he must get out of the way before being forced aside.