Will Mideast talks be Clinton’s diplomatic version of the health-care fiasco?

The Mideast peace talks this week in Washington are a high-risk, high-reward endeavor for Secretary Clinton. Should the direct negotiations eventually culminate in a historic agreement, it would be a defining moment for Clinton, especially if topped with a public signing ceremony such as the Sept. 13, 1993, one for the Oslo Accords that husband/President ...

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images
JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images
JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

The Mideast peace talks this week in Washington are a high-risk, high-reward endeavor for Secretary Clinton. Should the direct negotiations eventually culminate in a historic agreement, it would be a defining moment for Clinton, especially if topped with a public signing ceremony such as the Sept. 13, 1993, one for the Oslo Accords that husband/President Bill Clinton presided over with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasir Arafat.

On the other hand, if the negotiations fail -- and most people seem pessimistic -- it could be disastrous. It might even dog her the way her failed 1990s attempt at health-care reform does. The Pittsburg Post-Gazette's Dan Simpson, a former U.S. ambassador, writes that if the talks don't work out, Clinton could "suffer the diplomatic equivalent of her disastrous 1990s venture into health care reform." (And even if a historic agreement were hammered out, implementation -- which could take as many as 10 years -- could be derailed, as FP's Stephen Walt points out.)

I think it's doubtful, though, that if the negotiations fall through, it would be as bad as Clinton's fiasco with health-care reform. Most people are expecting the talks to fail because of the intransigence of the Mideast parties involved, and critics are more likely to pin a fiasco on President Obama, not Clinton, because, well, he's the president.

The Mideast peace talks this week in Washington are a high-risk, high-reward endeavor for Secretary Clinton. Should the direct negotiations eventually culminate in a historic agreement, it would be a defining moment for Clinton, especially if topped with a public signing ceremony such as the Sept. 13, 1993, one for the Oslo Accords that husband/President Bill Clinton presided over with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasir Arafat.

On the other hand, if the negotiations fail — and most people seem pessimistic — it could be disastrous. It might even dog her the way her failed 1990s attempt at health-care reform does. The Pittsburg Post-Gazette‘s Dan Simpson, a former U.S. ambassador, writes that if the talks don’t work out, Clinton could "suffer the diplomatic equivalent of her disastrous 1990s venture into health care reform." (And even if a historic agreement were hammered out, implementation — which could take as many as 10 years — could be derailed, as FP‘s Stephen Walt points out.)

I think it’s doubtful, though, that if the negotiations fall through, it would be as bad as Clinton’s fiasco with health-care reform. Most people are expecting the talks to fail because of the intransigence of the Mideast parties involved, and critics are more likely to pin a fiasco on President Obama, not Clinton, because, well, he’s the president.

Clinton has a lot of pushing, prodding, cajoling, and strong-arming to do this week. For the sake of world peace, let’s have the audacity to hope that progress, even a little bit, will be made. 

Preeti Aroon was copy chief at Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2016 and was an FP assistant editor from 2007 to 2009. Twitter: @pjaroonFP

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