President Obama’s address at the United Nations on 23 September gave some indication that he would soon be releasing his own plan for achieving the creation of a new Arab State between Israel and Jordan - the so called “two state solution - that has avoided the best efforts of previous American Presidents for the last sixteen years.
In his carefully crafted address he made the following statement:
“The time has come to re-launch negotiations - without preconditions - that address the permanent-status issues: security for Israelis and Palestinians; borders, refugees and Jerusalem. The goal is clear: two states living side by side in peace and security - a Jewish State of Israel, with true security for all Israelis; and a viable, independent Palestinian state with contiguous territory that ends the occupation that began in 1967, and realizes the potential of the Palestinian people.”The insistence that such negotiations be opened “without preconditions” was a slap in the face for Palestinian Authority president - Mahmoud Abbas - who has so far refused to enter into such negotiations with Israel until Israel totally freezes all construction activity in the West Bank.
No doubt Obama had hoped that his fruitless trilateral meeting with Abbas and Israel’s Prime Minister - Benjamin Netanyahu - the previous day would have enabled him to tell the United Nations that negotiations were soon to resume. That was not to be.
To compound Abbas’s irrational stance he has now insisted that he would not enter into any negotiations unless their end result would be the withdrawal by Israel from every inch of territory occupied by it since the Six Day War in 1967. [Wafa Palestine News Agency 22 September 2009].
Netanyahu - and previous Israeli Governments - have made it clear Israel would not be obliging Abbas in this demand.
President Obama appears to have supported Netanyahu on this issue by pointedly not calling for an Israeli return to the territorial position that existed at 4 June 1967 - but merely an end to the occupation that began in 1967.
Obama’s insistence that Israel be recognized as a Jewish state also is completely at odds with Abbas’ long standing refusal to accept such a proposal.
Given the above - it is extremely unlikely that Abbas is politically strong enough to get off his high horse, lose face and resume negotiations with Israel without preconditions. Hamas - and his own faction Fatah - will ensure this does not happen.
His preferred course will be to employ the tactics of the past and engage in rhetoric accusing the Israel lobby of controlling President Obama and the Congress and totally ignoring the victims of the conflict and their ongoing suffering.
He will prefer this course and the strong support he expects to receive in his stance from a majority of the morally bankrupt member states of the United Nations who control the affairs of the General Assembly and its Human Rights Council and can pass resolutions ad infinitum excoriating Israel and pursuing a program of delegitimizing Israel as the Jewish National Home.
President Obama has signalled he is not prepared to accept that tactic and allow the question of resuming negotiations and bringing an end to the conflict to meander aimlessly along the road to nowhere.
Slotted into his speech to the United Nations was this clear warning to both Israel and the Palestinian Authority:
“I am not naïve. I know this will be difficult. But all of us must decide whether we are serious about peace, or whether we only lend it lip-service. To break the old patterns - to break the cycle of insecurity and despair - all of us must say publicly what we would acknowledge in private.”The President was politely laying down an ultimatum - resume negotiations immediately “without preconditions” or he would publicly speak out and lay down his proposals for achieving the two state solution. If those proposals were not finally acceptable to both sides then America would not become further involved in pursuing the two state solution.
One does not need to gaze into a crystal ball to know that no plan the President publicly reveals will ever be acceptable to the Palestinian Authority.
President Obama will not resile from the demand that Israel be recognized as the Jewish State. He will not stipulate that 500000 Jews living in the West Bank will all have to be kicked out of their homes and businesses. The President won’t insist that millions of former Arab residents and their descendants be given the right to live in Israel.
What President Obama has done at the United Nations has made it very transparent that America is not prepared to be dragged along ignominiously for any further length of time in pursuing an objective that is all but totally unattainable.
Crunch time is fast approaching and for America the two state solution is all but dead and buried.
Other solutions and options need to be explored and pursued to separate the warring parties and allow each to live with one another as President Obama so eloquently expressed in his address:
“And after all of the politics and all of the posturing, this is about the right of every human being to live with dignity and security. That is a lesson embedded in the three great faiths that call one small slice of Earth the Holy Land. And that is why - even though there will be setbacks, and false starts, and tough days - I will not waiver in my pursuit of peace. “America will not depart the scene but it certainly is ready to abandon the two state solution if the parties cannot get down to business very soon and enter into negotiations to try and agree on its parameters.
“Dignity” and “Security” will soon become the diplomatic catchwords that replace “the two state solution”. After sixteen years of trying to achieve the impossible - the new direction being charted by President Obama at least offers some realistic hope of succeeding.