President Obama, on his first visit to Egypt later this week, will give a speech at Cairo University in which he is expected to talk about what needs to be done to bring peace to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to bring calm to the greater region. (Here’s a little handicapping of his speech.) But ahead of the president trip to Egypt and the Mideast, Jim Hoagland urges in the Washington Post a bit of caution about just how much influence the president can have over Mideast peace:
Cling to one thought as you work on your greatly anticipated speech to the Muslim world Thursday in Cairo, Mr. President: There is no American solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict that you can heroically deliver from on high. Peace must be built from the bottom up by the warring sides. Cling to that thought but keep it to yourself.
It would be pleasing to your hosts to suggest the opposite—a made-in-the-USA plan for the Middle East. Some of your aides believe this is a special moment that can end the region’s Sixty Years’ War if you intervene forcefully enough. But that neglects history and the internal logic of the conflict…
Today the Arab side lacks a leader as visionary as Sadat to save a failing U.S. effort or a Palestinian leader as skillfully duplicitous as Arafat to keep a homegrown one afloat. It is a moment for what George Shultz, Ronald Reagan’s secretary of state, called the “gardening” phase of diplomacy—pulling weeds and planting seeds—rather than overly ambitious plans that raise expectations too high.
I did not read Hoagland op-ed in the paper yesterday, but just received those excerpts in my e-mail inbox. The message was from AIPAC, and the subject began “must read clip.”