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Terms of Endearment

The Obama administration's Middle East diplomacy goes from bad to worse.

1:05 PM, Apr 7, 2010 • By ELLIOTT ABRAMS
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Perhaps this is all a trial balloon by Obama and Jones. If so, it will make Israeli-Palestinian negotiations even harder than they are today, after 14 months of Obama administration failures. For Palestinians will conclude that they have no reason to negotiate seriously, or to make concessions, when Obama may deliver what they want on a nice platter; and Israelis will conclude that Washington no longer takes their security seriously, so they must toughen their stance.

According to Ignatius, one senior official explained that “the American peace plan would be linked with the issue of confronting Iran,” because “the issues are two halves of a single strategic problem” and “we have to get the debate away from settlements and East Jerusalem and take it to a 30,000 feet level that can involve, Jordan, Syria, and other countries in the region.” There is a certain irony here, since the administration itself is wholly responsible for making “settlements and East Jerusalem” central issues right now. But read those quotes again. Phrases like “take it to a 30,000 feet level” are gibberish—a substitute for real analysis. There is no linkage to “confronting Iran,” for weakening Israel and U.S.-Israel ties makes that harder. Yet an underlying Obama theme is audible here: The United States needs to get closer to Arab countries, needs to “engage,” and Israel is in the way.

Ignatius begins his column by writing that “despite recent turbulence in U.S. relations with Israel,” President Obama is considering trying to impose his own “peace plan.” Where did “despite” come from?

Elliott Abrams is a senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

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