“Pleeeeze offer him role of Mideast Envoy? Pleeeeeze?,” Israeli lawyer and anti-settlements expert Daniel Seidemann wrote on Twitter, in response to a post noting Bill Clinton was among Obama’s golfing companions Sunday.
President Obama “is golfing with former President Bill Clinton, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Virginian gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe, according to the White House press office,” White House pool reporter Eric Wasson of The Hill wrote in a pool report Sunday sent to other reporters covering the administration.
“I’m sure 42 will have advice to share on the #MidEast Peace Process,” William Daroff, Vice President for Public Policy at the Jewish Federation of North America, commented on the golf outing of Presidents 42 and 44, reported to have grown closer during Obama’s reelection campaign.
Middle East peace activists have long fantasized about Obama enlisting the popular former President to try to advance the stalled Middle East peace process. (“Bill Clinton is the only guy I can think of who is trusted and liked by all sides,” veteran US foreign policy watcher Steve Clemons told this reporter two years ago. “Employ Bill Clinton as peace envoy,” Bernard Avishai, writing at the Daily Beast, urged anew this month.)
But until recently, with the imminent departure of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, and the key role Bill Clinton played helping Obama’s reelection campaign, the prospects of such an appointment seemed entirely unlikely. Even now, as yet, there is little sign the Obama administration seems inclined to wade back into a big new Israeli-Palestinian peace push, certainly not before Israeli elections next month. The biggest obstacle: the Israelis and the Palestinians don’t seem to want it.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, angry over the United Nations vote to upgrade the Palestinian Authority’s status last week, lashed out at the Palestinian entity Sunday, as Israel announced new settlement building plans and that it was withholding $100 million in tax payments to the PA. “The Palestinians want to use the peace process in order to bring about the end of the State of Israel,” Netanyahu charged Sunday.
Obama needs to get the budget deal passed, and likely to resolve the Iran nuclear issue, before he can contemplate whether he should make a big renewed peace push, Wexler suggested.
In any case, Wexler added, given that Israeli elections will be held the third week of January, “they likely do not seat the new government til the end of February, practically speaking,” Wexler continued. “Nothing can happen before then.”
“Wait for the president to consider if he wants a special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks (did anyone say Bill Clinton?) to assist the secretary of state,” David Ignatius wrote at the Washington Post Sunday.
Other veteran Israel political observers cautioned that, given the political realities among the parties, an opportunity to make progress on the vexing issue would likely not emerge in the next year, at least.
“If you care for Clinton, he shouldn’t get close to [the Middle East] in the next two years,” warned former Israeli diplomat Alon Pinkas. “Exercise in futility and shame. It’ll be nasty [and] brutish.”
(Photo: President Barack Obama talks with former President Bill Clinton backstage at the New Amsterdam Theater in New York, N.Y., June 4, 2012. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.)