IN OTHER WORDS:Fresh start
Hillary Clinton put down the right markers on her first Middle East trip as secretary of state. Whatever the eventual composition of a new, and presumably more hawkish, government after Israel’s last election, Clinton made clear that America’s interest lies in a two-state solution anchored by a broad regional peace. She advanced that interest by announcing diplomatic re-engagement with Syria and US support for the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas.
Former President George W. Bush made a serious mistake by shunning Syria, pushing it further into Iran’s arms. Coaxing Damascus away from Tehran would benefit Washington, deepening Iran’s isolation on the nuclear issue and encouraging Syrian cooperation in stabilising Iraq. It would benefit Israel, giving Syria greater incentives to cut off arms flows to Hezbollah in Lebanon. And it would benefit Syria, by providing the wider diplomatic and economic opening Damascus has been seeking.
Clinton says that she raised these points with Israeli leaders. She will need to keep raising them, and so will Obama’s Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, who will return to the region after a new Israeli government is in place. Eight years of incoherent policies and inconsistent engagement make reviving American peace efforts urgent.