Chess, Not Checkers

The following notes may be found in President Obama's breast pocket.

Opening: Make Hilary Secretary of State (that is, remove the leader of the opposition from New York). Show the Arab and Muslim world--a place where honor matters--an abiding respect. Embrace the Arab League peace initiative of 2002 and frame the Israel-Palestine conflict in regional terms. Set out the long range goal of a Palestinian state, albeit in vague terms, but along with the insistence that settlements cease--code for some variation on the 1967 border. Draw Egypt and Jordan into the mix, implying their participation as forces on the ground. Open a diplomatic channel with, and through, Syria.

Middlegame: Cultivate the Palestinian Authority's new government, providing training to its police forces, while providing the promise of new investments to its business class. Use channel to Syria to bring Hamas into negotiations with the PA. Encourage rejection of Islamist radicalism in Palestine by implying American pragmatism; leave the Iranian regime to discredit itself and, in the process, the democratic pretensions of Hamas and Hezbollah. Challenge Israeli government on settlements' "natural growth" to establish future position on a 1967ish border. Work with Quartet to establish a consolidated front of world opinion and great power fiat; imply complete diplomatic isolation of groups in Israel/Palestine that defy the "peace process."

Attack: Broker a deal, with Egyptian participation, for the return of Gilad Shalit, in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners and the opening of the Gaza crossings. Visit Russia. Visit Damascus. Prepare the ground to isolate Iran diplomatically. Welcome the creation of a joint Palestinian negotiation team, led by the PA, but including Hamas officials; accept the principle that any deal will be put to a referendum; accept that all groups that agree to abide by a referendum can enter into a dialogue with Washington. Call for renewed, bilateral negotiations between Israel and the PA presided over by George Mitchell.

Endgame: Present American formulations (Clinton parameters, etc.) to resolve the problems of Jerusalem, refugees, and borders; make these public as the negotiations proceed. Announce that the result of the negotiations will be presented to a regional peace conference, including the Saudis and the Syrians. Meanwhile, the latter establish low level diplomatic and commercial contact with Israel under American auspices. In advance of the conference, announce a Syrian-Israeli peace deal based on a demilitarized Golan, returned to Syria, but open to Israeli tourism and including Israeli commercial interests. Rally Europe and the Quartet to Marshall Plan scale investment package for the Palestinians. Provide for a three year plan to isolate the settlers who must be repatriated and compensated. Announce inclusion of Israel in NATO, and sign Israel to nuclear non-proliferation agreement. Prepare speech for Oslo prize ceremony.