Saturday, June 6

U.S. Attempts at Impartiality

In contrast to the Bush Administration, the Obama Administration seems to be bending over backwards to create a new atmosphere for even handedness on Israeli - Palestinian Conflict.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's posturing against the two-state solution is not going to help. In contrast to the Bush Administration indifference towards the conflict, President Obama wishes to improve US relations with the Moslem world. Bush ignored Israel's settlement activity on the West Bank.

The Annapolis Conference that President George Bush convened before the end of his presidency was inconclusive and lead to no final decisions about peace.

The Bush Administration was tainted with problems unsolved, much of which was Bush's creation out of his naive approach to the conflict and to the debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan which tarnished the US image in the Arab world. Obama wishes to improve this by taking a harder line towards Israel's settlement policy in the West Bank.

It seems as if the superficial understandings reached with the previous Bush Administration will be negated and the marking time on Israel's settlement policy will get short shrift from the Obama Administration.

The government of Israel is concerned about the even-handedness of the Obama Administration. In their eyes, the US policy on the settlements in the West Bank is unfair. The settlement policy of all Israel's previous governments in the past has been ignoring the building of settlements on the West Bank and even tacitly encouraging it. Special financial benefits were given to settlers on the West Bank to encourage settlement.

President Obama is visiting Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other Arab States in the Middle East in an attempt to heal the US rift with Moslem states. The Israeli Government is not happy about this development as it means more concessions to the Palestinians over withdrawal from the occupied territories. It means removal of outposts as starters. This also means that illegal settlements on the West Bank will also be removed in stages.

According to reports in the various media, Obama intends to persuade the Arab states to give something in return. It is doubtful if much will be achieved on this trip. Another interesting fact about this trip is that Israel is not on Obama's itinerary. The Arab states claim that the Saudi Plan of 2002 has given many concessions to Israel in the form of recognition and the establishment of normal relations if Israel agrees to the two-state solution and withdraws to the pre-June 1967 borders. The right wing coalition partners of Netanyahu government find this unacceptable. It remains to be seen whether Israel will acquiesce to US demands or to forfeit the automatic support it has been getting from the US as in the past if it panders to right wing settler demands.

The Israeli Government must realize that they are not the only players in the conflict and that peace between Israel and the Palestinians is in the US interests no less than Israel. A very serious problem remains with Hamas in Gaza. Hamas is intransigent and not amenable to negotiating with Israel irrespective of the government in power. How Obama will deal with that remains a big question.

On June 4th 2009, President Obama delivered a speech at Cairo University. His speech reflected a strong desire to make peace with the Moslem world. It was a speech reflecting a fair assessment of the situation between the US and the Moslem world despite the fact that Obama gave no indication as to how this could be achieved.

The Netanyahu government was not happy with the speech as Obama had mentioned the uprooting of settlements on the West Bank. One must bear in mind that this speech was intended for the ears of the Moslem world and not for Israel. US interests are not necessarily Israeli interests. Economic ties with the Arab states are important to the US as a bulwark against the Iranian nuclear threat.

The content of the speech was balanced and time will tell whether it will have much impact on those to whom it was intended. Perhaps the speech was a bit naive and did show a certain lack of knowledge of the history of the conflict as well as the intense hatred between the two sides.

However, President Obama realizes that the key to peace between the Palestinians and Israelis lies in improved relations with the Arab states and Moslem states. Also Obama stated that the key to a solution to the conflict consists of recognition of Israel’s right to exist and the right of the Palestinians to an independent state alongside Israel. This can only be achieved by Israel agreeing to remove illegal outposts and (this could include illegal settlements in the West Bank). After all at the end of the day, there is no other option for an independent Palestinian state but in the occupied West Bank. The Netanyahu approach against the two-state solution is harming Israel according to former ambassador to the United States Sallai Meridor. It remains to be seen how the Netanyahu Government will respond to that. Time is now against Israel and the status quo in constant settlement enlargement on the West Bank has now ended. After all much of the settlements established in the occupied West Bank is on stolen Palestinian lands.

A solution to the conflict is dependent on painful decisions on Israel’s part and the Palestinian agreement to renounce terror in all its forms and to act to prevent it. There is no doubt that the Obama approach differs from that of the previous Bush administration approach which was no approach.

It will be in the interests of all the parties concerned to heed Obama’s speech in Cairo. It is the best thing that came from the US in a long while.

42 years of occupation

42 years of corrupting the country

42 years of creeping annexation

42 years of robber settlement

42 years of increasing violence

42 years of sabotaging peace


Gush Shalom

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