Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Mars Needs Women, and Earth Needs Adults

Roger Cohen on what passes for the mideast peace process, and the blase cynicism with which even mostly secular Tel Aviv greets it:

(George) Mitchell, after 18 months of toil, believes Netanyahu will go the extra mile. I was shown minutes of a meeting this year with Palestinian officials in which Mitchell said: “Benjamin Netanyahu will be thinking about his legacy. My experience in Northern Ireland makes me strong in my belief. Ian Paisley blocked an agreement for decades. He hated Catholics and called the pope the Antichrist in Parliament. At the age of 82 he started thinking about his legacy, made a turn and was a key figure in reaching an agreement in Northern Ireland.”

To which Saeb Erekat, a leading Palestinian negotiator shot back, “Let’s hope that Netanyahu reaches that conclusion before he reaches 82!”

It’s hard to resist Erekat’s cynicism. Peace is tough when politics are dead.


'Politics' has become a dirty word, synonymous with system gaming, power and patronage, purblind obstructionism. That itself is a sad indictment of our times. Myriad problems present themselves, in America, Israel and the world, and will not be solved absent the conduct of politics in its best sense, by adults working together. Middle school bully contests won't do it.

Obama has tried--for too long, I think--to be an adult approaching his opposition as adults, rather than as petulant middle-school bullies. He's a bit, if only a bit, better abroad: offering engagement to Muslim non-terrorists, something other than bombs to Iran, meaningful negotiations to Medvedev, settlement limit-setting to Israel. He needs, at home, to do something similar, out loud, frequently and often: differentiate between moderate Republicans, all three of them, and the crazies, in service of recruiting the former and putting the latter at more of a political disadvantage than they currently enjoy. Nobody else can do it. Perhaps he can't, either. But if the issue isn't that he can't, but that he won't, for shame.

And what he's been doing hasn't been working. What does he have to lose?

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