How peace keeps receding in the Middle East

A demonstrator holding a Palestinian flag gestures in front of Israeli forces during a protest in the West Bank on Sep 16. (photo: Mohamad Torokman / Reuters)
The “peace process,” as we knew it, is dead. To speak of Palestinian rights these days is to draw scorn, or just a big yawn. The Palestinians are yesterday’s problem.

By David Ignatius | The Washington Post | Sep 18, 2018

The peace I worked on for 35 years will not be achieved in our lifetimes. But it will happen eventually, because there is no other way.
— Martin Indyk, former US ambassador to Israel

This month commemorates two pinnacles for the benign, naive superpower that was America, both involving our now-lost role as Middle East peacemaker. Forty years ago, President Jimmy Carter brokered the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt; and 25 years ago, President Bill Clinton presided over the signing of the Oslo Accord between Israel and the Palestinians.

As we looked this week at the old photographs of beaming U.S. presidents grandly mediating between adversaries, what was happening in today’s Middle East? Russian President Vladimir Putin was cutting a deal with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to avert a catastrophe in Syria and carve up that country in a peace of the tyrants.

Russia as a Middle East bullyboy has been a nuisance for the United States. Russia as the hegemonic regional power that brokers peace deals may be a more serious problem.

America doesn’t look so indispensable these days if you’re an Egyptian, Palestinian or Syrian — or a Saudi, Emirati or Iraqi, for that matter. Under President Trump, the United States has ceded the mediating role to others. Trump’s idea of a peace plan is “maximum pressure,” the demonstrably false idea that he can bludgeon Palestinians (or Iranians) into making peace on his terms by starving them of money, food, medical care and other basics of life.

If maximum pressure could bring peace, the Israelis would have bested the Palestinians decades ago. The reality, it turns out, is that as people become poorer materially, they cling to their dignity and often become less compromising.

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