by Barry Rubin
The year 2010 is going to be interesting. Well, all years in the
For the Obama Administration, I'm going to predict, it will not be a fun year. True, the best face will be put on things. Since it is protected—perhaps next year to a lesser degree--by the media, the administration has a special advantage over its predecessors. Yet there are two huge and two potentially serious problems which it cannot solve.
The first unsolvable problem is the Arab-Israeli conflict. Last January, President Barack Obama promised a quick solution to the issue. Then he promised that an Israeli freeze of construction on settlements would lead to a diplomatic breakthrough. A few months later, he promised he'd get some Arab concessions in response to an Israeli freeze. In September he promised that final status negotiations would begin in two months.
None of these things happened.
In fact, Obama's policy sabotaged progress. After all, if he was bashing
Remember in his
But here's where it gets interesting: there is a very serious prospect of no direct or any serious Israel-Palestinian negotiations during all of 2010. And in late September,
There is literally no way out for the Obama Administration. The only route to getting talks is either to get more unilateral concessions from
The Obama Administration is not likely to say: We were wrong. This is tougher than we thought. Nor are they probably going to put the issue on the back burner openly. Nor are they going to criticize the Palestinian Authority. So they will pretend to be working hard, sending their envoy zipping around, looking for some opening to leap into action. But isn't this going to be pretty obviously a charade? Well, only if the media wants to say so.
That's not all. The administration keeps pretending that it has
And by the end of the year or earlier it will be clear that any sanctions applied aren't working. The year 2010 is the make or break year for stopping
I'm not chortling over this as I'd greatly prefer the administration would be brilliantly successful in bringing peace—a good one, of course, not just any deal—and ensuring
Two other issues may cause problems but are not likely to bring benefits in 2010, though they are designed to bring political dividends for when Obama is up for reelection in 2012.
The same basic point holds for
Then there's the chance that Obama's vaunted popularity will crack. Palestinians will claim he isn't giving them everything for nothing;
There's always the chance of a major terrorist attack against some American target succeeding.
In short, 2010 does not look good at all for Obama. Is there any chance of a big success in the region for him? (Your eyes dart around the room trying to think of something. Finally, you give up and give the inevitable answer.) No.
The most critical question of all is whether the administration will learn from its experience. There are a lot of mistaken conceptions to learn from:
The Palestinians aren't desperate to make peace. Moving away from
Usama bin Ladin says that everyone wants to bet on the strong horse. Obama's policy makes
Shall Obama hope that 2011 comes fast? Well, that's the year
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal.
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