The Middle East Channel

When in doubt, give a Middle East speech

The looming U.S.-Israeli tensions over who says what first about Israeli-Palestinian peace obscures the broader question on which any successful American initiative depends: Are Israelis and Palestinians ready for a conflict-ending agreement? And if not, is there anything Washington can do about it? The wise former secretary of state, George Shultz, used to say that ...

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US President Barack Obama (C) walks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel (L) and President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority on September 1, 2010 at the White House in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO / TIM SLOAN (Photo credit should read TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images)

The looming U.S.-Israeli tensions over who says what first about Israeli-Palestinian peace obscures the broader question on which any successful American initiative depends: Are Israelis and Palestinians ready for a conflict-ending agreement? And if not, is there anything Washington can do about it?

The wise former secretary of state, George Shultz, used to say that when you don’t have a policy, the pressure builds to give a speech. These days, that appears to be the focal point of the current efforts on all three sides. In short, if you can’t or won’t do, then at least talk. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is going to pre-empt the United States with his own plan; President Barack Obama is considering pre-empting the prime minister with his own; and the Palestinians, well, they’re planning to counter with their own U.N. gambit on statehood.

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Aaron David Miller, a distinguished fellow at the Wilson Center, served as a State Department Middle East analyst and negotiator in Republican and Democratic administrations. He is the author of The End of Greatness: Why America Can’t Have (and Doesn’t Want) Another Great President. Twitter: @aarondmiller2

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