Roger Cohen published a fabulous op-ed today. It’s extremely useful because Cohen is what you’d call, for lack of a better term, a liberal on matters Israeli-Palestinian, and yet he makes a point that I think a lot of liberals are having trouble with due to their commitments and values (and it’s a point I tried to make yesterday), which is that, even if you believe the settlements are unethical, illiberal, Israel’s Original Sin, and all that, there is no persuasive case that, as of right now, they are even close to the main obstacle to peace—which means that the Obama administration’s unrelenting focus on them has been extremely ill-advised. Argues Cohen:

No U.S. president should invest his personal capital by inaugurating direct talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders when those talks are set to abort weeks later over an issue—Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank—that’s long been sitting there like a big truck on the road.

Yet that’s what President Barack Obama has just done, allowing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to snub a personal request that a 10-month moratorium on building in the West Bank be extended in the interests of negotiation. Palestine can’t get born if the land for it keeps eroding.

The amateurish air of desperation attending this unseemly sequence has now given way to the outright desperation of American-Israeli horse-trading over what concessions, guarantees, blandishments, military hardware et al. the United States might offer Israel in exchange for a 60-day extension of said moratorium.

Anyway, read the whole thing. I don’t agree with all ten of his points—point eight, that many Gaza residents would go along with a Palestinian Authority-led state in the West Bank, seems spectacularly wrong—but Cohen is an insightful reporter whose heart is in the right place but whose head and eyes are telling him something much more simple: “[Palestinians’] thirst for sovereignty is matched only in intensity by Israel’s insistence on security. Here lies the hinge of peace.”

Going, Going, Gone [IHT]