The Arab-Israeli conflict has never lost its power to conjure visions of Nobel Peace prizes among world diplomats, even as it has repeatedly thwarted the efforts of even the most skilled among them. Despite the occasional success, well-intentioned plans have also backfired disastrously, triggering new waves of deadly violence. As the Obama administration launches a new push for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, the watchword must be, “First, do no harm.”
Forging a successful peace process that brings results would obviously create tremendous benefits for the local population and for America’s strategic interests. It is undeniably a worthy goal. But failure, which most people agree is a very possible outcome, risks inflaming a volatile situation. The worst-case scenario as Secretary of State John Kerry slowly unfurls his “quiet strategy” is that of raising expectations only to see them publicly dashed -- a scenario that in the past has sparked outbreaks of intense and protracted violence.
The risks, of course, do not mean the U.S. should step aside and ignore the smoldering animosity between Arabs and Israelis. They simply mean the road ahead is not only difficult. It is also dangerous.