Middle East peace processors beware

Should the Palestinian Authority agree to direct talks, the question is: What took them so long?

    I have recently returned from Afghanistan, but withoutsuccessfully shaking the Arab-Israeli conflict from my mind.
    That's because in Kabul I ran into none other than retired US Army Colonel PJ Dermer, whom I've known since his defence attaché days at the US Embassy in Tel Aviv.
    Colonel Dermer spent the bulk of his 30-yearcareer in the Middle East, as a regional specialist tackling some of the most challenging issues. You can read more about him from this earlier blog post.
    Bottom line: he's never suffered fools, even though they almost alwaysoutranked him, includingin the form of Middle Eastenvoys and White House political appointees.
    As we ate Palestinian Makhlouba (there is actually a good place to findit in downtownKabul), PJ told me about an article he penned in the scholarly Journal of Palestinian Studies. It sums up his experiences liaising between Israeli and Palestinian security services.For students of the conflict, it is worthreadingin full becausehis analysisis bothhonest and insightful.
    I wish him good luck trying to advise the Central Command leadership, perhapson the best way to withdraw from Afghanistan.
    But those who need more luck than him are the very Middle East peace processors he disses - the ones whohope a deal can be reached through direct talks withina year.Certainly the Arab-Israeli conflict is at the nub ofAmerican problems in the Arab and Muslim world, soefforts to resolve it are certainly appreciated.But only if they are real and not a way of shoring up "moderate Arab" support to confront Iran in the event diplomacy fails.
    Should the Palestinian Authority agree to direct talks today as expected, Ipose tothema single, puzzlingquestion: What took you so long?
    Many believed all along thatyou'd give in to the American pressure, even asIsrael continued its home demolition and settlement expansion enterprise (albeit at a somewhat reduced speed).
    Maybe Abu Mazengot a juicy letter penned by President Obama himself on what a Palestinian state would look like - one that replacesand updatesthe so-called Clinton Parameters. Or maybe his schedule was light for September.
    Guess we'll find out soon enough. Stay tuned.



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