The Obama Team's Misguided New Middle East Policy
Frank Kaufmann «View Bio

Conflict in the Holy Land is the single most destabilizing influence in world affairs.  Over 3.6 billion people, living in every nation in the world, believe history's most sacred treasures, their "own" most sacred treasures are there.

World leaders should devote constant attention and unwavering devotion to the Holy Land to resolve as many causes for disorder as possible, as often and as effectively and enduringly as possible.

On the 1st anniversary of US President Obama's pledge to make "the Middle East a top foreign-policy priority," and after this same 1st year of dismal results in the area, President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Special Envoy for Middle East Peace George Mitchell Jr. have announced a radical change in policy to one that comes extremely close to being perfectly ill-conceived. 
On the basis of virtually no success this team has decided to reorient the process to have as its starting point final status issues. The US team now plans to leapfrog over the broad range of issues normally taken up, and focus instead at the outset on setting borders and tackling the issue of Jerusalem.

“We need to lift our sights, and instead of... looking down at the trees, we need to look at the forest,” Secretary Clinton said after her meeting with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh. “We know what a final resolution will have to include: borders, security, Jerusalem, refugees, water,” she added.

“Resolving borders resolves settlements. Resolving Jerusalem resolves settlements,” Clinton said.

This concept is so ill-conceived that every US citizen with any choice on anything related to this initiative should withhold resources. If it is possible to keep your money in your pocket and away from this, do so. If it is possible to not vote for this, do so. If there is any way whatsoever for you to save yourself from personal loss or investment in this scheme, do so. That my leaders will associate my country and my identity as a US citizen with so profoundly errant a notion is a cause for anger.

There are at least three glaring reasons why this policy direction should be obstructed and hopefully reversed. Almost all of them have to do with the fact that doing things backwards is usually considered a bad idea. 

Reason 1:  "Hi Boss, I've failed perfectly at every small thing that I've attempted, I'm ready now to run the whole company, especially to take over the most difficult, intractable, and near impossible problems." 

"Excellent Jones.  Here are the keys to everything.  Have at it."

Observed similarly, (curiously in the same area of the world), in Matthew 25:23, "His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much."' 

Get some little things right. Let's see how you do. Is that really so hard to figure out?

Reason 2.  Final status issues are untouchable on the front end, and have remained unsolvable until today (and will remain unsolvable long after Obama, Clinton, and Mitchell) because they involve resources outside the political realm. Final status issues are religious, plain and simple.  They are NOT about housing, they are about sacred sites. God herself could not solve this problem if she approached them as a politician. 

Abdul would move his house to Antarctica if that was the point from which the Prophet ascended to heaven, and so would Schmuel if that was the area promised him. Sven would bring his four blond children to live in Mogadishu tomorrow, if that was where God in the flesh wrought salvation for our race. 

We are not talking about "renewable resources," we are not talking about a tree in my front lawn. We are talking about "the footprints of God."  The Garden of Gethsemane is a non-renewable non-negotiable resource. The rock that bears the footprint of the Prophet, is a non-renewable, non-negotiable resource. The integrity of a God bound in the covenant of his own promise is a non-renewable, non-negotiable resource.
Final status issues have to do with religion, with the sacred and with the infinite. I am sorry to read that people like President Obama and his secretary of state imagine they can manage the sacred and irreplaceable of infinite worth in their spare time.

3. Absolute difference can be managed only through investing in and succeeding in an incremental development of trust that is tested, hard won, overcomes setbacks, and is informed by an inherent dynamic that moves it innately forward toward higher and more harmonious engagements. That dynamic must be rooted in respect, compassion, embrace and love.

The Obama team has decided to leap into a fiery vat of absolute difference (and carry us with them) at the moment of a profound nadir of trust among Israelis and Palestinians.

Thankfully there is an emerging chorus of doubt and dissuasion emerging (if it were children you'd just take away the matches they had found and spank their hands). Hopefully many others quickly will join Bernard Reich, a Middle East expert at George Washington University who, while supportive of the administration, rejects this idea as unworkable.

This policy direction manifests hubris and impatience, the quintessence of tragedy. Ask ye the "Greeks" or the "Hebrews," (1 Corinthians 13:4).

Dr. Frank Kaufmann is a New York-based commentator on religion and interfaith affairs, especially as they impact international relations.