After a year in office, Obama looks back at the Middle East with anger.
From his point of view, there is in fact nobody to talk to because in the Middle East there are no brave leaders able to take bold decisions. He feels betrayed and disappointed.
The problem is that the leader of the world’s greatest superpower cannot afford this kind of luxury.
Instead of patronizing and whining like a pampered kid that all the efforts he invested were in vain, Obama could have pounded the table and do what the world expected him to do: Take initiative, grab the refuseniks by the hair, and not let go until they say “yes.”
An American president has an impressive toolbox available to him, yet Obama has not yet used any of these tools. He has not lifted the diplomatic hammer or threatened anyone with a political axe. He did not even do the minimum pledged by his aides when they entered the White House: Openly present a detailed American peace plan, and then exert intense pressures on all sides to tow the line.
Obama also did not quite talk about an outline for a plan. The tough words he uttered during the elections campaign have turned into a whisper after a year in the Oval Office.
No reason to celebrate
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas know that the only plan on the table is to establish a Palestinian state in line with the 1967 borders (with some adjustments,) territorial trade-offs, a declaration that Jerusalem is the capital of both states, and the establishment of diplomatic ties between Israel and all Arab states.
Obama should have presented this plan, set a tough timetable for implementation, threatened to condemn the refuseniks, and market the initiative via a grandiose international conference.
However, Obama took the easy way out: He chose to get insulted, made a face, and turned his back on both sides.
PM Netanyahu has no reason to celebrate the fact that Obama is disappointed. It appears that we lost the president's attention, and possibly also his concern for our well-being. Those who examined Obama’s words carefully the other day realized that the president is no longer quite with us.
Peace in the Middle East is first and foremost an Israeli interest, even if the way to achieve it involves pressure by a friend. The most terrible outcome would be a situation where we have to cope with American indifference.