Jacob Heilbrunn

The Comeback Girl

Never underestimate Hillary Clinton. The announcement that Middle East peace talks will take place in early September in Washington, DC will solidify her standing with President Obama. Until now, Clinton has enjoyed a reputation as a lonely hawk in the Obama administration, the bad cop who calls for tough measures against foreign adversaries such as Iran and admonishes countries like Vietnam about human rights.

The talks that are scheduled to take place between Israelis and Palestinians will help change that. Clinton is in a position to become a heroine. Middle East peace has been similar to trying to reach the horizon--always receding as you try to approach it. But conditions have rarely been riper. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a hardliner and an opportunist. He can astonish his critics and earn a reputation as a statesman if he reaches a deal with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who has his own reasons for a peace treaty, which include isolating Hamas. 

Is a deal difficult to envision? Not at all. The terms are pretty clear. It's more a matter of each side, particularly the Palestinians who have balked in the past (why they didn't they sign at Wye?), deciding that enough is enough. The proposed timeline of a year is more than enough for an agreement to be signed in a Rose Garden ceremony.

For Obama and Clinton the stakes are high. Obama is being written off as president by the likes of professor Fouad "Iraq will greet us with flowers" Ajami. In a particularly odious column in the Wall Street Journal about the purported obsolescence of Obama that David Rothkopf dismisses as "arrant nonsense"--in my view, "bilge" might be more like it--Ajami crowed that it's all over but the shouting. It will be interesting to see if this Ajami prognostication proves as half-baked as his previous ones. As Rothkopf notes, "the Obama presidency, if it is like any of those before, has yet to be defined. Indeed, it is how he deals with unexpected and unanticipated events that are yet to come -- or to the unintended consequences of his initial policy moves -- that is more likely to define his presidency than anything that has happened thus far."

It would be a crowning irony if Clinton, who tried to move heaven and earth to prevent Obama from becoming president, ended up rescuing him.