Ben Smth flags an interesting part of an interview President Obama gave to Joe Klein:
I think that we overestimated our ability to persuade them to do so when their politics ran contrary to that. From Abbas’ perspective, he’s got Hamas looking over his shoulder and I think an environment generally within the Arab world that feels impatient with any process.
And on the Israeli front, although the Israelis I think after a lot of time showed a willingness to make some modifications in their policies, still found it very hard to move with any bold gestures. And so what we’re going to have to do—I think it is absolutely true that what we did this year didn’t produce the kind of breakthrough that we wanted and if we had anticipated some of these political problems on both sides earlier, we might not have raised expectations as high.
And it took him a year to figure this out? Anybody with a remote understanding of the conflict knows that there are problems that go beyond mere leadership by the president. When I traveled to Israel in November 2008, shortly after Obama’s election, I spoke with a Palestinian negotiator in East Jerusalem, and reported that there would be absolutely no way Israel could make any concessions when the Palestinian leadership was divided, and Hamas controlled Gaza, and that Abbas didn’t have enough power to make a peace deal. It wasn’t a brilliant insight on my part, but just the blindingly obvious. During the campaign, Obama’s naivete on this issue was apparent, but anybody who pointed this out was dismissed as possessing insufficient hope and excessive cynicism. His narcissism prevented him from realizing that he couldn’t simply convince Israelis and Palestinians to cut a deal by his awesome powers of pursuasion.
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