[Published 26 October 2012]
President Obama has dramatically lowered his support for Israel over the past four years when one considers his latest response to a questionnaire from the American Jewish Committee - compared to the answers he provided before the 2008 elections.
President Obama’s 2012 response is both vague and essentially directionless:
"Last year, I stood before the United Nations General Assembly to address the Palestinian bid for U.N. recognition of statehood.I believe now, as I did then, that the Palestinian people deserve a state of their own. However, I continue to believe that lasting peace will only come from direct negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians themselves and not from unilateral Palestinian actions at the United Nations.That is why I made it clear that there can be no short-cuts to peace, and called on the world to recognize the legitimacy of Israel and its security concerns as a Jewish, democratic state.
We cannot impose peace or any final status details on the Israelis and Palestinians.Ultimately, it is up to the two parties to take action. Final status issues can only be resolved by the Israelis and Palestinians themselves. What we can do is state frankly what is widely known: that a lasting peace will involve two sovereign, independent states.And I am convinced that the majority of Israelis and Palestinians would rather look to the future than be trapped in the past. However, my Administration has made it clear that Israelis cannot be expected to negotiate with a partner that refuses to recognize its right to exist.That’s why it’s imperative that Hamas abides by the Quartet conditions to renounce violence, recognize Israel’s right to exist, and abide by past agreements."
His response was far more direct four years ago - indicating the parameters of the two-state solution he then envisaged should be the outcome of negotiations between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization through it’s agreed negotiating entity - the Palestinian Authority (PA).
"The United States cannot dictate the terms of a final status agreement. We should support the parties as they negotiate these difficult issues, but they will have to reach agreements that they can live with. In general terms, Israel clearly must emerge in a final status agreement with secure borders. Jerusalem will remain Israel’s capital, and no one should want or expect it to be re-divided. As for refugees, the Palestinians will need to reinterpret the notion of a right of return in such a way that will preserve Israel as a Jewish state, while Israel would likely contribute to international compensation for the refugees.
But these details are for the parties to decide. While negotiations are ongoing, both sides should take steps to improve conditions on the ground, so that people believe they have a stake in the process."
The following differences between Obama 2008 and Obama 2012 are starkly evident:
1. President Obama would find it virtually impossible to criticize the PA acquiring “a state of its own” by demanding as a necessary condition that all 500000 Jews living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem be expelled from their homes and businesses.Ironically the President’s stated policy positions will please many Jewish voters who want to see an end to the two-state solution and futher expansion of Jewish settlement in the West Bank - where sovereignty still remains unallocated.
2. The Palestinian Arabs deserved right to a state is timeless - no matter how many offers made by Israel are rejected by the PA. With that kind of Presidential mind set - Arab rejectionism of such a state - first proposed in 1937 and rejected on many occasions since then - is bound to continue without fear of any political consequences from America.
3. Whilst direct negotiations still remain the pathway to create any such Palestinian State - the President is apparently prepared to allow those negotiations to continue to be stalled indefintely without any express policy being proposed by him as a possible circuit breaker. Such Presidential inertia can only encourage the PA to prolong the resumption of negotiations until its demands to return to the negotiating table are first agreed on by Israel.
4. Whilst President Obama states that he has called on the world to recognise the legitimacy of Israel and its security concerns as a Jewish democratic State - he makes no similar direct call on the Palestinian Arabs.
5. Gone are the 2008 pronouncements on secure borders, Jerusalem, and refugees - positions agreed on in an exchange of letters in 2004 between Israel’s Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and President George W Bush. President Obama’s abandonment of his predecessor’s commitments will only embolden the PA to maintain its rejectionist stance on each of these issues.
It will equally please many Arab voters who are girding up to push the idea of just one state west of the Jordan River where they believe the Arabs living there would eventually become the majority population.
But most Jewish and Arab voters would sense that continuing to state what he says is “widely known” - that lasting peace will involve two sovereign independent states - is at best a pipe dream and far removed from the reality that has seen this objective still unachieved after nineteen years of fruitless negotiations.
President Obama’s latest response to the American Jewish Committee certainly guarantees the two-state solution is not going to happen if he is re-elected for a second term.
It also ensures that Israel will be left to hang out to dry by America as calls to divide Jerusalem are increased, territorial adjustments to the 1967 armistice lines in the quest to ensure Israel’s national security are ignored and calls for the unconditional right of return of millions of Palestinian Arabs and their descendants into Israel are stepped up.
As Israel continues to be delegitimised and denigrated as the national homeland of the Jewish people in pursuit of these Arab objectives - a second term President Obama will maintain a studied silence.
If a week is a long time in politics - the next four years will prove to be an eternity for any prospects for peace if President Obama makes it to the White House again and the present status quo is allowed to continue.