Friday, February 13, 2009

When the Quest for Middle East Peace Trumped U.S. National Security

Martin Indyk, former U.S. Ambassador to Israel during the Clinton Administration, a key player during Middle East peace negotiations in the 1990s, and more recently an informal advisor to the Barack Obama presidential campaign on Middle East issues, has authored a new book. Entitled "Innocent Abroad: An Intimate Account of American Peace Diplomacy in the Middle East," it is Mr. Indyk's account of the Oslo Peace Process. Jonathan Schanzer reviews Mr. Indyk's book in today's Jerusalem Post online. The most fascinating portion of the book review for me dealt not with anything in the book, but with a telling omission. Mr. Schanzer writes:

The saga begins when Indyk tells Clinton it would be possible to broker four Arab-Israeli peace deals during the president's first term. Indyk recalls that Clinton, then a diplomatic neophyte, looked him in the eye and said, "I want to do that." Five weeks into Clinton's presidency, Indyk recalls, "Middle Eastern peacemaking was the only item on the agenda" in the first National Security Council meeting on March 3, 1993. As Indyk notes, Clinton had a "strong interest in resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict to stabilize a region of vital concern." What Indyk neglects to note is that five days earlier, on February 26, Islamist radicals detonated a large bomb at the World Trade Center in Manhattan, killing six. Thus began the pattern whereby the quest for Middle East peace trumped national security.

George Santayana famously said, "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it." One hopes for our country that President Barack Obama has learned something from the history of the Clinton Administrations foray into Middle East peace making. Perhaps still more apropos, however, is a quote that I paraphrase by memory from a George Will column: "He who the gods wish to destroy they first persuade to try to bring peace to the Middle East."


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Friday, April 03, 2009 10:41:00 PM  

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