Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter’s former national security adviser, made a very good point on Morning Joe this morning about the content of the State of the Union. He noted that while almost all parts of the world that American foreign policy focuses on (Iraq, Afganistan, China, Pakistan, etc) got a mention, one area did not; Israel-Palestine. Considering how central resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict has been to President Obama’s foreign policy agenda, this is actually quite surprising. He postulated that this could mean one of two things. First, it is possible that the situation is so far gone he is washing his administration’s hands of the issue. The second possibility however is that a secret deal is coming close to fruition.
We know from recent documents released to Al-Jazeera that the Palestinian Authority negotiators appear to have been willing to give up far more than ever thought. While Israel came off looking very bad to the international community from the release of these documents, within the Palestinian state, it was the Palestinian leadership that was weakened. So who would want to release these documents? It is likely that whoever released them is no friend of the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas. This most likely puts them in the more hard line militant camp of Fatah, as those to the left of Abbas would not want to weaken the peace process. A possibly more important question, however, is why were these documents were released right now? It could simply be the most mundane explanation; that whoever released these documents just came upon them fairly recently and thought the world had to know or thought the damage they could do to Abbas was beginning to degrade over time (the most damaging elements were from 2008). A second possibility is that these documents are being released now in an attempt to derail a peace plan that is in the final stages of negotiation or on the verge of going public. While this may seem crazy, there is a long history of militant hardliners on both sides acting to derail peace processes in the region. This information coming out early could be aimed to spook the Palestinian leadership out of the deal due to the negative reaction on the street or make take control of the PR war of selling the deal out of Abbas’ hands.
If Dr. Brzezinski turns out to be right, it could be very possible that the biggest accomplishment for President Obama this year would be something that he did not even address at the SOTU. There seems to be some perverse humor in this and I hope six months from now we are all laughing about it.