Editorial The Historic Disappointment of Barack Obama and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

In the Middle East, Obama will be remembered as one of the most ineffective presidents, revealed as not only one who cannot, but one who doesn’t even try.

Illustration: Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu fare Barack Obama well after their final meeting at the UN General Assembly.Eran Wolkowski

Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu’s 17th encounter on Wednesday was a meeting of two resounding failures in the history of Middle East peacemaking. Expectations were always low that Netanyahu would take any action to end the occupation and come to an arrangement with the Palestinians. Therefore, the greatest historical disappointment lay with Obama for this, his last meeting as president with Israel’s prime minister.

When he was elected Obama aroused great hope, not only among the Americans but in the hearts of Israelis and Palestinians, who were fed up with the mutual bloodshed. About eight years later, Obama cannot boast one modest achievement in this respect. Maybe he’ll be remembered as a great president for his country, but in the Middle East he’ll be remembered as one of the most ineffective presidents. A lot of talk with nothing to show for it.

The meeting of the two leaders came a few days after the generous aid agreement was signed with Israel for the coming decade. The man who signed on a package that grants Israel $38 billion failed to make use of this astronomic assistance to advance his declared goals.

On the eve of his meeting with Netanyahu Obama said at the UN General Assembly that the Israeli occupation cannot go on forever, knowing that his administration’s policy, like that of all his predecessors, is the one enabling, financing and arming the continued occupation. And so, apart from suspending the construction in the settlements for 10 months, one of the most impressive presidents in American history, a man of considerable prestige and power, failed to launch any move leading to the end of the occupation. From his eloquent and beautiful speeches only hollow words remain, a whistle in the wind, unaccompanied by any action.

The one who promised “yes we can,” was revealed at the end of two terms as not only one who cannot, but one who doesn’t even try. Apart from sending Israel a special envoy who failed and a secretary of state who also failed, Obama is emerging as someone who has given up on solving the conflict. That’s his fateful mistake. The United States bears a heavy responsibility for the continued conflict, and it cannot afford to cut itself off and leave the sides bleeding. The conflict will continue to haunt the United States. Obama knows this, and yet he appears to have thrown in the towel.