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An Obama Plan for Mideast Peace?

An anonymous administration official runs an idea up David Ignatius’ flagpole: Frustrated with the poor-to-intransigent pace of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, which are barely at the “indirect” phase, President Obama is considering proposing his own Mideast-peace plan. That’s something the two-state-solution community urged him and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to pursue after last month’s friction with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over Jerusalem settlements.

Ignatius reports that it would take a wide, regional focus:

The American peace plan would be linked with the issue of confronting Iran, which is Israel’s top priority, explained the second senior official. He described the issues as two halves of a single strategic problem: “We want to get the debate away from settlements and East Jerusalem and take it to a 30,000-feet level that can involve Jordan, Syria and other countries in the region,” as well as the Israelis and Palestinians.

“Incrementalism hasn’t worked,” continued the second official, explaining that the United States cannot allow the Palestinian problem to keep festering — providing fodder for Iran and other extremists. “As a global power with global responsibilities, we have to do something.” He said the plan would “take on the absolute requirements of Israeli security and the requirements of Palestinian sovereignty in a way that makes sense.”

This has apparently come with the aid of foreign-policy greybeards from both parties, like Brent Scowcroft, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Sandy Berger, Frank Carlucci, Robert MacFarlane and Colin Powell. The administration certainly leaked that to frame this prospective initiative as a consensus view. (Because, frankly, it is.)

That, and the other specificity cited by Ignatius — the administration could start interagency discussions modeled on the Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy and unveil a plan by the fall — support the initial judgment that this has already been well-discussed internally. On the other hand, it could be a shot across Netanyahu’s bow, telling him that if he doesn’t take some confidence-building measures — and soon — the Obama administration will launch its own very big peacemaking agenda, and that’s not going to be something Israel will want to be viewed as opposing.

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