I'll be honest with you. A) This is just really hard. Even for a guy like George Mitchell, who helped bring about the peace in Northern Ireland. This is as intractable a problem as you get. B) Both sides — the Israelis and the Palestinians — have found that the political environment, the nature of their coalitions or the divisions within their societies, were such that it was very hard for them to start engaging in a meaningful conversation. And I think that we overestimated our ability to persuade them to do so when their politics ran contrary to that. From [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas' perspective, he's got Hamas looking over his shoulder and, I think, an environment generally within the Arab world that feels impatient with any process.You're the president of the United States of America. The single most powerful individual in the world, with the best decision-making infrastructure ever. All you needed to do was read some Hebrew and Arabic language newspapers - nothing deep and profound - to know that the sides are too far apart for easy peace-making.
Of course, you don't read either Hebrew or Arabic, but that's what staff is for. Nor is anything they'd have told you hard to grasp. The Israelis thought they were making peace in the 1990s, and ended up with suicide bombers in their city centers; they tried unilaterally moving out of Lebanon in 2000 and Gaza in 2005, and got two wars in response. So they're wary. They'd be suicidal if they weren't. Nor are they feeling particularly generous, full of brotherly love for the folks who've been doing their best to kill their children.
The Palestinians I can't speak for, but from listening closely to lots of people who've been listening closely to them, it seems to me they've yet to reconcile themselves to the finality of a Jewish State on land they feel is theirs by right, and theirs alone. Certainly ever more of their English-speaking allies feel the Jewish position can't be justified, so even if lots of Palestinians might once have begun to resign themselves, why should they? Lots of people tell them they're right not to give up.
None of this is hard to understand. The American president, however, influences the scene merely by looking at it, not to mention when he intervenes. That's also not hard to understand.
if we had anticipated some of these political problems on both sides earlier, we might not have raised expectations as high.Mr President, it's people's lives you're fiddling with. This isn't the autonomy of banks, not numbers of unemployed, nor even the eventual cost of insuring people from illness. When you intervene first and then set out to understand only second (and I'm not clear you do yet, even now), people will die.