Middle East Modesty

In international diplomacy, avoiding failure is sometimes a better objective than achieving great success. That is clearly the case with the plan to convene many of the parties to the Arab-Israeli conflict, which is not even close to being ripe for resolution.

“Ripeness is all,” concludes Edgar in King Lear . I will leave it to Shakespeare scholars to decipher what he had in mind. But for diplomats and historians, understanding the concept of ripeness is central to their jobs: it refers to how ready a negotiation or conflict is to be resolved.

This may sound academic, but it is anything but. The United States and the three other members of the Quartet – the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations – are planning to convene many of the parties to the Israeli-Arab conflict at a meeting near Washington in November.

The problem is that the conflict is not even close to being ripe for resolution. Ignoring this reality will lead to failure, if not catastrophe.

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