Monday, November 9, 2009

Obama's failed Settlement freeze struggle brings Columinst Tom Friedman to write to Obama: Leave peace alone

(Ynet).New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote a piece on the eve that US President Barack Obama set a much-contended meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. The article recommends that Obama abandon the Middle East peace process, claiming that US involvement only helps both sides cover up their deficiencies and lack of willingness for real concessions.

Friedman describes talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians as a tiring routine that are more a function of diplomatic habit than real intentions to reach an agreement. The talks have left the realm of diplomacy and have become more an issue of maintenance – something the diplomats do in order to stay in shape, so to speak.

"The Israeli-Palestinian peace process has become a bad play. It is obvious that all the parties are just acting out the same old scenes, with the same old tired clichés — and that no one believes any of it anymore. There is no romance, no sex, no excitement, no urgency — not even a sense of importance anymore. The only thing driving the peace process today is inertia and diplomatic habit," Friedman wrote.

Friedman called upon Obama to adopt a new, radical approach that has yet to be seen in the White House: "Take down our 'Peace-Processing-Is-Us' sign and just go home."

As of today, he wrote, the US is interested in peace more than the two parties and has become the Israelis' and the Palestinians' Novocaine.

"We relieve all the political pain from the Arab and Israeli decision-makers by creating the impression in the minds of their publics that something serious is happening. 'Look, the US secretary of state is here. Look, she’s standing by my side. Look, I’m doing something important! Take our picture. Put it on the news. We’re on the verge of something really big and I am indispensable to it.' This enables the respective leaders to continue with their real priorities — which are all about holding power or pursuing ideological obsessions — while pretending to advance peace, without paying any political price," Friedman claimed.

"Let’s just get out of the picture. Let all these leaders stand in front of their own people and tell them the truth: 'My fellow citizens: Nothing is happening; nothing is going to happen. It’s just you and me and the problem we own.' Indeed, it’s time for us to dust off James Baker’s line: 'When you’re serious, give us a call: 202-456-1414. Ask for Barack. Otherwise, stay out of our lives. We have our own country to fix.'"

Friedman, who played golf with President Obama just three weeks ago, mocked the American administration for "begging" Israel to stop building the settlements. He claimed that the US is in the wrong position when it continuously asks the Palestinians to come to the negotiating table, and importunes the Saudis to "wink" at Israel. According to him, these are pathetic moves that only damage Obama's credibility in the peace process.

"If the status quo is this tolerable for the parties, then I say, let them enjoy it. I just don’t want to subsidize it or anesthetize it anymore. We need to fix America. If and when they get serious, they’ll find us. And when they do, we should put a detailed US plan for a two-state solution, with borders, on the table. Let’s fight about something big."