The Obama administration, according to numerous news reports, is ramping up for a final push for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal in its final months in office. An extremely critical report on Israeli settlement activities prepared by the United States, in conjunction with the Quartet, is said to be in the works. And the U.S. is even rumored to be contemplating tabling a U.N. Security Council resolution outlining a final status agreement.
Why the obsession with Israel? Like the administration's major current domestic initiative – pushing males who self-identify as females into every girls school bathroom and locker room in America – the energy expended on Israel-Palestinian peace talks is inversely proportional to the importance of the issue.
In Jeffrey Goldberg's near book length treatment of President Obama's foreign policy thinking, in the March issue of The Atlantic, much space is devoted to the president's self-congratulation for having resisted the temptation to intervene in Syria, even as 450,000 people have died, four million have been displaced from their homes, and Europe has been flooded with hundreds of thousands of refugees it cannot absorb and who threaten its entire social structure.
Chief among the president's explanations for his refusal to act is the conviction that there was little the United States could do to make the situation better. Why, then, does he expect to succeed brokering the Palestinian-Israel peace that has eluded his last six predecessors?
Another question. Near the very end of Goldberg's "The Obama Doctrine," he outlines the main planks of Obama's thinking about the Middle East. The first is that the glut of oil renders the Middle East no longer terribly important to American interests. The second is that even if the Middle East were still of surpassing importance, there is little the United States can do to make it a better place given the deformities of the region.
Obama himself describes one of the central (albeit little noticed) messages of his 2009 Cairo speech as one to the Muslim world: "Let's all stop pretending that the cause of the Middle East's problems is Israel."
So, again, if the Middle East is no longer important, and the Palestinian-Israel conflict has close to nothing to do with the terrorist threat emanating from the region or the slaughter taking place within, why is the United States embarking on a fool's mission?
GOLDBERG HAS BEEN A FREQUENT MESSENGER over the years for President Obama's contempt for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and he once again makes reference to the "contentious" nature of their relationship. Goldberg describes Obama as a man of "preternatural confidence." The president relates one instance where he felt that Bibi was lecturing in him in a manner that showed he did not share the president's high self-regard. Obama informed him, "I'm the African-American son of a single mother, and I live . . . in the White House. I managed to get elected president of the United States. You think I don't understand what you are talking about, but I do."
And Obama professes to believe, according to Goldberg, "Netanyahu could bring about a two-state solution that would protect Israel's status as a Jewish majority democracy."
Yet Obama's own analysis leads to the conclusion that it is not within Netanyahu's hands to "bring" peace. Nor is it cowardice or political paralysis that prevents him from doing so.
It takes two to tango, and Obama's own words make clear why the Palestinians can't dance. Though the president will never refer publicly to the problem of Islam, lest he fan anti-Muslim sentiments, in Goldberg's telling he is perfectly forthright with other world leaders: There will be no solution to Islamic terrorism until Islam reconciles itself to modernity. For that Muslims themselves will require a vigorous internal discussion. None is on the horizon.
That still unreconciled Islam enjoins "Mohammedans to maintain a permanent state of belligerence with all nonbelievers, collectively encompassed in the dar al-harb,the domain of war," writes Professor Adda Bozeman in The Future of Law in the Multicultural World. Malaysian Prime Minister told the Organization of the Islamic Conference in 2003, "A few million Jews cannot defeat 1.3 billion Muslims." A Jewish state on any land previously held by Muslims is an intolerable affront.
All around the Middle East Obama sees failed states that quickly become havens for terrorists. He and his allies created one in Libya, which the president now acknowledges as his greatest foreign policy failure. Because of the absence of civil society in the Middle East desperate people quickly revert to a primitive tribalism based on sect, creed, clan and village. ISIL, in the president's view, is but the distillation of every worse impulse along those lines – a small group defining itself by killing all who are not like them
And for precisely the reasons given by Obama, a Palestinian state in the West Bank would quickly degenerate into failed state and terrorist haven. Institutions of civil society remain weak, and clan and tribal identity high. Civil war broke out in Gaza soon after the Israeli withdrawal, and the same would happen in the West Bank. And as a consequence, the West Bank would become a terrorist haven, as has Gaza, where vast vitally-needed resources are still dedicated to waging war on Israel.
Palestinian society fits Obama's description of Arab countries in general: It is characterized by a "violent, extremist ideology or ideologies, turbocharged through social media" – indeed in the Palestinians' case turbocharged by the official media and education system.
In short, Obama's own analysis leads inexorably to the conclusion that peace will not be had with the Palestinians because their goals are not those of Western liberals who view negotiations as primarily over the size of the slice of the pie of the respective parties. Their goals are more grandiose and not really subject to negotiation. They seek not a state – that they could long ago have had – but the end of the alien one next door.
So why does the president ignore the force of his own logic and despise Bibi. I suspect he's just not that enchanted by the idea of a Jewish state. Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told Goldberg that Obama wondered aloud why Israel's military superiority must be maintained.
Jon Favreau, the president's former chief speechwriter, recently commented that he, and Ben Rhodes, an Obama speechwriter cum national security advisor, and the president himself view their "entire job" as "restructuring the American narrative." Could part of that narrative be that Israel is the bad guy?