It didn’t take long for US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to take a running jump into the quicksand which so spectacularly claimed her husband - President Bill Clinton - in 2000.
On her first visit to Israel this week Secretary of State Clinton also nominated President Obama as another candidate for the slippery slide into oblivion when she told Israel’s President Shimon Peres on March 3:
“During the [Sharm el Sheikh] conference, I emphasized President Obama’s and my commitment to working to achieve a two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, and our support for the Palestinian Authority of President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad.”
The two state solution - involving the creation of a 22nd Arab state between Israel, Jordan and Egypt - has been effectively pronounced dead and buried as a result of:
•the demise of the negotiating process begun in 2003 pursuant to the Roadmap endorsed by America, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations
•the failure to achieve the two state solution by the self imposed deadline of 31 December 2008.
•the departure from power of two of its main proponents - former US President George Bush and former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
•the loss of political power and control in Gaza by the Palestinian Authority and the PLO and their replacement as governing authority by Hamas.
•the probable formation of a Government in Israel led by Benjamin Netanyahu - which will oppose any two state solution that accepts a fully sovereign and independent Arab state between Israel and Egypt
What rabbit out of the hat does Ms Clinton and her President think they can produce so as to succeed where so many before them have tried and failed abysmally over the last 15 years?
Continued reliance on the Roadmap to achieve the two state solution seems futile. President Obama would be loathe to promote his predecessor’s failed plan. Even he must realise that pursuing a plan that could not even get off the ground after six years of trying is an idea he should continue to pursue any further.
The unyielding and intransigent Arab negotiating demand made during the Roadmap negotiations that Israel cede any claim to 7% of the West Bank means that 500000 Jews would have to be kicked out of their homes for those negotiations to succeed. The Arab demand for 100% of the West Bank and Gaza has been repeated ad nauseam for the last 40 years and has been one of the central issues that has plagued every effort to create the two state solution.
Offers of land swaps between Israel and the West Bank have already been rejected in the Roadmap negotiations. Demographics now make such a two state solution impossible to achieve.
The Arabs must moderate their negotiating stance on this issue. There is no indication they have the slightest intention of doing so.
Perhaps the Secretary of State intends embarking on a romantic cavalcade through the Middle East in pursuit of the adoption of the proposals contained in the Arab League Initiative - dreamt up in 2002 by Saudi Arabia but sidelined as the parties embraced the Roadmap instead.
She will be disappointed. The Arab League Initiative contains a specific demand calling for Israel to cede any claims to even one square metre of the West Bank and Gaza.
The Arab League has made it clear that its proposal is a “take it or leave it” proposal - not subject to negotiation in any respect. Israel will have no choice but to “leave it” - if it does not wish to sign its own death warrant.
Perhaps Ms Clinton is fooling us all and in the best traditions of diplomatic doublespeak is using the term “two state solution” to mean the division of the West Bank between Israel and Jordan. This would see perhaps 90% of the West Bank become part of Jordan and the remaining 10% become part of Israel and represents the only possible breakthrough to end the long running conflict.
Ms Clinton and President Peres both seemed blissfully unaware of the threat posed by Hamas to Israel - and to Palestinian Authority President Abbas who was given the thumbs up by Ms Clinton at her meeting with President Peres.
As Ms Clinton stood side by side with President Peres trying to outdo him in their protestations of undying affection for each other - President Peres observed:
“… even now, they [Hamas] continue to fire. We don’t know the reasons why are they doing it. We don’t know the goals they want to achieve. We know their intentions, which is basically negative—to destroy peace.”
Regrettably the Secretary of State was unable to enlighten President Peres on Hamas’ declared intention to wipe Israel off the map by using Gaza as the forward staging post whilst at the same time undermining Abbas‘ legitimacy to head the Palestinian Authority.
Instead she soothingly replied:
“ … the continued rocket attacks against Israel must cease. I don’t, like Shimon [Peres], understand the provocation that Hamas is determined to present.”
In this scenario of total ignorance billions will be poured into Gaza only to see parts of it razed to the ground in a very short period. Nine hundred million dollars from a cash strapped US economy will disappear without trace as Israel continues to respond to these continuing indiscriminate Hamas rocket assaults on its civilian population centres.
Abbas has been reduced to the status of a political eunuch. US support for his continuing rule seems odd as diplomats from other nations line up to visit Gaza and enter into a dialogue with Hamas.
And so our intrepid Secretary of State had nothing better to say than admire President Peres for his determined efforts to seek peace over his lifetime by saying:
“I always come away from my times with you both inspired and encouraged to think more deeply and more broadly. And I also am silently challenged by your ceaseless optimism about the future.
This is a man for whom the expression “The glass is half full” was invented.”
Perhaps this expression could be equally applied to President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton. Their intentions to pursue peace are without doubt earnest, honourable and sincere.
One thing is certain however - they will need many full glasses to drown their sorrows as they unsuccessfully pursue the two state solution as the path to peace during their respective terms of office.