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Jeffrey Goldberg

U.S. Officials: Blame Palestinians, Too

American officials I spoke to were careful to apportion blame in a way that was slightly more even-handed.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas meets with Hilik Bar, a member of the Israeli Knesset, on April 16 in Ramallah. Photographer: Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas meets with Hilik Bar, a member of the Israeli Knesset, on April 16 in Ramallah. Photographer: Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Last week, the dean of Israeli newspaper columnists, Nahum Barnea, reported that senior American officials are placing almost all the blame for the collapse of the Middle East peace process on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Barnea quotes one unnamed official who argues that the Netanyahu government's settlement policy fatally undermined the John Kerry-led negotiations. "What they told me is the closest thing to an official American version of what happened," Barnea wrote.

Well, that was last week. This week, perhaps in reaction to the reaction to Barnea's article, American officials I spoke to were careful to apportion blame in a way that was slightly more evenhanded (to borrow a loaded term from the annals of American peacemaking). There is no doubt that the underlying message is the same: The Netanyahu government's settlement program, in the officials' view, is the original sin committed in the nine-month process (the original sin of the Middle East conflict is located elsewhere). But officials I spoke to said that they are peeved -- a word one of them actually used -- at Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for, in essence, checking out of the peace process as early as February.