Sometimes, when allowed to, talks between two sides reach a point where no further compromise is possible. Both sides feel they have given enough or one side has done the far greater amount of giving while the other side has refused to make even the slightest of concessions. The talks have been ongoing with an on again off again drumbeat which marked the passage of time, not agreements. Even pressure put upon the talks with expressions of the grave and vital importance made clear. Grand schemes have been proposed and failed to force a change in either side. President Obama has made demands that were designed to facilitate progress, yet there was still no progress. Everybody around the world has had their two cents worth of advice and the talks have stalled again and again. Grand bargains have been offered and have caused a crack of light to appear signaling perhaps a miracle only to return to moribund silence between the two sides. The United Nations has pleaded and shown deep concern even to the point of offering to assist in any way they might be invited, but that too fell on deaf ears. What is a world to do when one side of a situation that screams out for justice and compromise refuses compromises and chooses to scream about the injustices that have been done to them. And all that has befell the intransigent side the other claims they have brought upon themselves by taking the path of refusal and obstinacy.
But with the New Year there are signs that President Obama will bring changes and by his will alone force movement in the talks towards a mutually beneficial resolution. His promises sound vaguely familiar; perhaps we have heard these promises before. Vice President Biden makes a plea restating an old offer expressing the hope that this is the time that perchance this offer should be accepted. Then, with only a moment’s wait, a mere few days, and the obstinate side remains obstinate, refusing the offer with a steely cold denial. There is a deep exhalation as many had held their breathe anticipating a change, but alas there will be no movement. There is still hope that there can be a new round of talks made possible if only there is the perseverance to bring it to fruition. We wait often believing we caught sight of the glimmer of the light of hope but then again it may have just been flashes in our own eyes and nothing of the tangible sort. Can there be progress? Should we still hold out hope? What if the worst of the worst should come and the talks prove to be futile and have been merely a long exercise in futility? Will we be able to face the consequences and do what we know must be done? If we refuse to admit the failure, then what will become of us? Will the impasse lead to war as had been predicted by some who told us long ago that our faith in talks was fruitless? Will there be no other way out of the predicament which we now find ourselves having to admit? It is too harsh a reality. The talks must be reopened and another chance be given for progress, compromise, a last hope. We have to allow the time for talks to work, and they will work, they must work. But what if they don’t?
President Obama has told us that the talks would lead to peace and security and put an end to any difficulties, any threats, any dangers. The President assured us in dulcet tones that he could make the talks work if only they would listen to his generous offers and reasonable requests. Kindness, after all, always calms and defeats harsh rhetoric, heals wounds and works wonders, after all, did not his promises and words win him election? All we had to do is allow his words to work their spell. But now his words have the hint of panic and defeat and have lost some of their melodic and hypnotic overtones. His sweet overtures have slowly changed taking on a rasp of harshness and now have the sharp retort-filled tones of rapid gunfire.
There is to be yet another round of talks, or so we have been led to believe. Can they really make any difference at this late date? Why should we continue to hold out hope as all has certainly proven hopeless? The last refusal of a generous offer of direct talks had the dead tones of finality. The discussions with the arm of the United Nations on their dual track was refused and abruptly cut off just a short while ago. Their track seems to have come to their end. They have reached the gorge and there does not appear to be a bridge. Are our tracks equally coming to that gorge that has no bridge? It will be a harsh pill to swallow if the warnings from Israel prove true. What do we do now that there is no path forward through discourse and all the talking has been revealed to be a ruse used to stall for time? What are we to do? Yes, sure we will go ahead with the talks we have managed to agree we will hold, but if they fail once again, then what?
And for the really big question, what is it that President Obama will be discussing on his trip to Israel next month? We have been told that President Obama will not be making any plans to force a reopening of the equally moribund talks between Israel and the Palestinians and they plan other discussion. Could it be that President Obama will be talking with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to advise him of what will come should the last gasp talks with Iran continue to fail? With the growing reluctance and intransigence by Iran and the obvious failure of the P5+1 talks to produce even the smallest concession which could be verified, what can we expect other than a waste of breathe and time with another round of talks. It really does seem obvious that we have been talking just to hear ourselves talk. Perhaps we must admit to ourselves that we have been talking because the alternative is too frightening to even think about. We have been so determined to avoid what has been the inevitability of the rising menace named Iran that we have talked ourselves almost to death. While we aimed to avoid war Iran has aimed for the ultimate weapon of war and our determination of avoidance has brought them dangerously close to their goal, maybe even they have attained what they desired. What will we tell our children if we find that Iran has truly reached the goal and now already possesses a small cache of nuclear devices? How will we excuse our timidity which enabled the rising bully to so equip itself? Have we talked ourselves to the brink of doom or beyond, that is the question that needs an immediate answer. And what are we going to do even if the answer is affirmative? Will we then continue to talk only this time the talk will be about how much we surrender before it becomes too much. What if we talked ourselves into that oblivion? As Shakespeare wrote, “Methinks the Lady doth protest too much.” Have we so protested too much and now are left with too little leverage to gain advantage? Did we whittle away any advantage we originally had? That would indeed be a sad state of affairs. Very sad.
Beyond the Cusp