TEL AVIV – The collapse of yet another attempt by the United States to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement should do more than provoke finger-pointing. It should spur a fundamental reconsideration of a paradigm of peacemaking – direct bilateral negotiations, under US guidance – that lost its relevance long ago.
While the US remains an indispensable global actor, it is no longer willing to use coercive diplomacy in its quest to build a new order. But it is not just a matter of willingness; the US has lost its ability to intimidate other countries, even allies and clients like Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
In the Middle East alone, the US has overstretched its capabilities in two controversial wars; repeatedly failed to broker a peace between Israel and Palestine; estranged key regional powers; and performed disappointingly on issues like Iran’s nuclear program and Syria’s civil war. All of this has diminished its capacity to shape the region’s future.
The problem is not limited to the Middle East. Despite its professed strategic pivot toward Asia, US President Barack Obama’s administration has done little to address China’s increasingly assertive efforts to stake its territorial claims in the South and East China Seas or North Korea’s affronts to the status quo on the Korean Peninsula. Add to that America’s weak response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and it is no wonder that Israeli and Palestinian leaders have dismissed its peace overtures.