The less Obama does on this visit, the better

Given the likely options, I’m glad Obama is coming here tomorrow to do nothing rather than to try to revive the peace process. Today, reviving the peace process, Obama-style, would mean coercing Mahmoud Abbas to enter negotiations with Netanyahu in return for nothing, or next to nothing, such as a token prisoner release, some musical chairs with a few checkpoints and a vague statement of good intentions. And for that, Netanyahu would get what he very much wants: “peace negotiations” with no end, which would provide diplomatic cover for his terribly right-wing, settlement-crazy new government. At the same time, Abbas would be constrained from taking any more “unilateral actions” like going to the U.N., or to The Hague, or seeking any advantage outside the framework of negotiations opposite Bibi Netanyahu and under the auspices of the United States, otherwise known as Israel’s lawyer.

That would be much, much worse than the nothing Obama reportedly plans to achieve in his visit this week (beyond getting the Israeli public to warm up to him, which I’m sure he’s capable of doing, and which will last until some future moment when he says one mildly critical word about Israeli policy or Israeli anything, at which point the Israeli public will forget this charm offensive in Jerusalem as if it never was).

Obama tried to revive the peace process once before, at the start of his presidency, when he demanded that Israel impose a total settlement freeze and agree to a Palestinian state on the pre-Six Day War borders with land swaps. Now that would have been something, had he stuck to his guns. But he “learned his lesson,” which is that the domestic political price for taking on the occupation is much, much higher than what he’s willing to pay, so the only real pressure Obama’s been willing to apply since then is on the Palestinian side, notably at the U.N.

Who needs more of that? I only hope he keeps to his plans this time, and that by the end of the visit, those of us who’d like to see freedom and democracy around here will be able to say, as sincerely as hell: Mr. President, thanks for nothing.

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