Surveying the wreckage of the middle east peace talks — what was obama thinking?

Barry Rubin asks an excellent question in connection with President Obama’s recent push for an agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority:

Knowing that it was unlikely he would get a full continuation of the freeze [on Israeli settlement construction] and that the Palestinian Authority was eager to get out of negotiations, why did Obama put so much of his prestige on success; give himself unnecessary self-imposed impossible deadlines; make a breakthrough seem relatively likely and easy (despite giving lip service to the difficulties); and magnify the issue’s importance so that a failure seemed all the worse?

For Rubin, the primary answer is incompetence. This is an explanation I almost always resist in these kinds of situations as facile and demeaning to people more accomplished than me.
But Rubin exhausts the force of explanations I generally find more plausible — political calculation, ideology, arrogance, and the desire to posture — without providing a fully satisfactory answer to his question. So I’m inclined to agree that incompetence was also at play.

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