Set aside the deplorable joke which was dropped from the transcript (and if it is a metaphor for the Middle East peace process, why disguise the Palestinian as a Taliban but not the Jewish merchant as, for example, an Indian merchant?).
Gen.Jones talks about Obama's global foreign policy vision; after mentioning Iraq (peace with honor!) he lands in the Middle East with this:
Whether or not the rights and responsibilities of nations are upheld will in great measure determine whether the coming years and decades result in greater security, prosperity and opportunity—for Americans and for people around the world.
Perhaps nowhere do we see this more than in the Middle East, where we face two defining challenges that I want to touch on tonight: preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them, and forging a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians as part of a comprehensive peace in the region.
Jones explains that the Bush policy of not engaging Iran had clearly failed,and now Obama has almost completed his demonstration that engaging Iran will also fail. Well, he phrases it differently. But then we get to this,with my emphasis:
Of course, one of the ways that Iran exerts influence in the Middle East is by exploiting the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict. Iran uses the conflict to keep others in the region on the defensive and to try to limit its own isolation. Ending this conflict, achieving peace between Israelis and Palestinians and establishing a sovereign Palestinian state would therefore take such an evocative issue away from Iran, Hizballah, and Hamas. It would allow our partners in the region to focus on building their states and institutions. And peace between Israel and Syria, if it is possible, could have a transformative effect on the region.
Really? Surely that depends on the process by which "peace" is achieved. We had "peace" after World War I, yet many embittered Germans simply pointed to the Treaty of Versailles as one more grievance and another reason to go back to war. As David Bernstein and Barry Rubin noted recently, it is not at all clear what Palestinians believe about this.
Many Palestinians (and their partners in the international grievance community, such as Iran) may believe a narrative in which the tide of history is running their way - Israel is more isolated now with Obama in office, Iran is closer to a bomb, Gaza has been returned to the Palestinians in exchange for not much, and who knows what the next decade will bring - in this environment, why should Palestinians sign away their imagined "right of return" now? And how would Palestinians react to a "peace" deal imposed by the US - would they say "Peace at last" and resume something like a normal life, or would this become the Versailles Treaty of the 21st century?
More from Gen. Jones:
Since taking office, President Obama has pursued a two-state solution—a
secure, Jewish state of Israel living side by side in peace and security
with a viable and independent Palestinian state.
This is in the United States’ interest. It is in Israel’s interest. It is in the Palestinians’ interest. It is in the interest of the Arab countries, and, indeed, the world. Advancing this peace would also help prevent Iran from cynically shifting attention away from its failures to meet its obligations.
Well, is it in the Palestinian interest? To repeat Mr. Bernstein's question, is there polling or other evidence suggesting the extent of the Palestinian commitment to that belief?
And I hope this is obvious - a cram-down "peace" deal that vindicates Obama's Nobel Prize but leaves the Palestinians embittered is not in America's interest.
The General makes a similar point, unconvincingly:
In our pursuit of a two-state solution, we recognize that peace must be made by the parties and cannot be imposed from the outside. At the same time, we understand that the status quo is not sustainable. It is not sustainable for Israel’s identity as a secure, Jewish, and democratic state, because the demographic clock keeps ticking and will not be reversed. The status quo is not sustainable for Palestinians who have legitimate aspirations for sovereignty and statehood. And the status quo is not sustainable for the region because there is a struggle between those who reject Israel’s existence and those who are prepared to coexist with Israel — and the status quo strengthens the rejectionists and weakens those who would live in peace.
If the status quo is working for the rejectionists, why are we so sure that a peace deal will command vast popular support?
Let me clip this from recent Times coverage (my emphasis):
Troubling. My suggestion - Obama should offer the Palestinians subsidized participation in the new US health exchanges as part of a peace deal so he can pin down two legacies at once - has not caught fire.
The administration’s immediate priority, officials said, is jump-starting indirect talks between Israelis and Palestinians. There is still a vigorous debate inside the administration about what to do if such talks were to go nowhere, which experts said is the likeliest result, given the history of such negotiations. Some officials, like Gen. James L. Jones, the national security adviser, advocate putting forward an American peace plan, while others, like the longtime Middle East peace negotiator Dennis B. Ross, who now works in the National Security Council, favor a more incremental approach.