Off the table

While packaged as a triumph, the rollout of a new round of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations is in fact more of a relief, given the circuitous path required to arrive at the talks. Convinced of the need for a U.S. role that was at once more activist and yet more dispassionate, President Barack Obama’s administration committed a ...

By , a senior fellow and the managing director at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

While packaged as a triumph, the rollout of a new round of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations is in fact more of a relief, given the circuitous path required to arrive at the talks. Convinced of the need for a U.S. role that was at once more activist and yet more dispassionate, President Barack Obama's administration committed a series of early diplomatic miscues that strained U.S. relations with both Israelis and Palestinians, and likely delayed the onset of direct negotiations. The legacy of those early errors -- the Sept. 26 expiration (or perhaps extension) of Israel's settlement moratorium -- continues to hang as a dark cloud over the fledgling peace process.

In light of the experience of the last 18 months, therefore, it is prudent to use the commencement of "direct talks" not only to revisit the negotiating issues themselves, but also to reassess the U.S. role in the negotiations.

While packaged as a triumph, the rollout of a new round of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations is in fact more of a relief, given the circuitous path required to arrive at the talks. Convinced of the need for a U.S. role that was at once more activist and yet more dispassionate, President Barack Obama’s administration committed a series of early diplomatic miscues that strained U.S. relations with both Israelis and Palestinians, and likely delayed the onset of direct negotiations. The legacy of those early errors — the Sept. 26 expiration (or perhaps extension) of Israel’s settlement moratorium — continues to hang as a dark cloud over the fledgling peace process.

In light of the experience of the last 18 months, therefore, it is prudent to use the commencement of “direct talks” not only to revisit the negotiating issues themselves, but also to reassess the U.S. role in the negotiations.

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Michael Singh is a senior fellow and the managing director at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He was a senior director for Middle East affairs at the U.S. National Security Council during the George W. Bush administration. Twitter: @MichaelSinghDC

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