Saturday, June 13

President Obama's Cairo Speech and Implications

President Obama's visit to Cairo was well received. The speech that he made at Cairo University received a positive response. It was obvious that the speech was intended for the Arab states with whom he wishes to improve relations.

Many observers maintain that this speech was one of President Obama's greatest speeches to date. He made many generalizations but no policy announcements. However, he was clear on two issues:

1. Settlements in the occupied territories must cease.

2. The enlarging of existing settlements under the excuse of" national growth" must end as well.

There was no mention of removing existing settlements on the West Bank.

Obama is not anti-Israel despite the fact that the right wing in Israel wish to label him as such. The accusations of the Israeli right wing claiming that Obama is Moslem because of his middle name, Hussein, are scandalous! They view his speech as anti-Israel and pro-Arab because he is more outspoken on illegal settlement issues. The previous Bush Administration ignored Israel's settlement policies in the West Bank as well as the make shift outposts.

The Obama Administration made a deeper study of all the peace efforts attempted by previous US administrations noting that all these efforts achieved very little for peace. Obama seems to be adopting a more aggressive peace policy and a different approach compared to US policy of previous US administrations.

While Obama has not formulated any approach towards solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, there is a hint that he will not let sleeping dogs lie as the previous administrations did. Obama's Cairo speech illustrates his incredible charisma and a desire to be more involved in formulating peace between Israel and the Palestinians early in his presidency. All the deceptions of Israel under the guise of "natural growth" in the occupied territories which in practice meant building new settlements on stolen Palestinian lands will have to stop.

The Netanyahu government must take heed of the new US approach and change its ideas. Netanyahu's arm will be twisted until he accepts the two-state solution. He has no choice or he will risk US admonishing and pressure by not getting automatic support by the US in preventing the passing of anti-Israel resolutions in the UN. These anti-Israel resolutions will increase and the US will not veto them automatically as in the past.

Israel prides itself in being the only true democracy in the Middle East. This democracy ceases when it comes to the colonization of the West Bank and the abuse of human rights of the Palestinians. Now with a draconian law preventing the commemoration of the Naqba has brought the demise of democracy in Israel a step closer. Collective punishment meted out by the Israeli Security Forces against the Palestinians by humiliating body searches and checkpoints in the guise of security are draconian and not democratic. The uprooting of olive trees, destruction of Palestinian agricultural lands by settler zealots occurs frequently. Many settlers beat up Palestinians for no reason and all these incidents are swept into oblivion by Israel. It is inexcusable and unacceptable!

Israel wishes to be viewed as the biblical David surrounded by a hostile hoard of Goliaths. Yet the occupation of the West Bank and the behavior of the extremist zealot illegal settlers towards defenseless Palestinians dissuade that image. Their aggressive activities against the Palestinians are left largely unpunished.

Obama is aware of human rights abuses in the occupied West Bank. This is incompatible with Western democratic values to which Israel proscribes. He addresses himself to these abuses and realizes that it has to end. The only way to end it must be to end the occupation. Obama is the best friend Israel ever had in the US. At least he is honest in his attitude towards the illegal settlements. He is not side stepping that issue. It remains to be seen how he will get the Netanyahu government to agree. The problem is that the hardcore right wing coalition partners do not accept it. They regard those that oppose the occupation and building of settlements in occupied Palestinian lands as being anti-Zionist or even anti-Semitic. This is ludicrous of course but then their propaganda gains much support amongst the religious right.

It is quite possible that Obama will present a peace plan within the next coming months. It will probably begin with a commitment to the two-state solution, withdrawal to the lines of June 1967 before the Six-Day War and total freeze of settlements on the West Bank. The right wing coalition under Netanyahu will not accept this. It is obvious that Obama's desire to end the hostilities between Israel and the Palestinians as well as withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Another factor is the economic slump in the US because of the stock market crash. This reverberated throughout the world including Israel. The only way to improve the US economy is by improving relations with its trading partners and this includes the Arab world whose oil is essential for the US. While many people have lost their jobs because of the severe slump, the improvement in the economic situation in the US could be achieved by solving the conflict.

There seems to be a strained relationship between Obama and Netanyahu. Both leaders are arrogant and that is as far as their similarity goes. Both are determined to stick to their views which are diametrically opposed.

The only alternative under the present Israeli government is a binational apartheid state which can never be democratic as it means continuing the occupation. The opposition to a two state solution will gain ground in the Palestinian camp for a very different reason. They believe that if the two-state solution is not accepted by Israel, it will be replaced by a binational state which within time will have a Palestinian majority. This is a possible alternative to the two-state solution.

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