[Published 9 March 2014]
President Obama’s interview with Jeffrey Goldberg on 2 March exposed the President as a leader lacking in understanding and vision - bound to a 20 years old negotiating process that has proved an abject failure and will continue to do so until Obama finally declares it dead and buried.
The President still clings to the vain hope that the framework agreement for peace being drafted by Secretary of State Kerry will be accepted by Israel and the PLO – allowing the long drawn out negotiating processes established under the Oslo Accords, Bush Roadmap and Annapolis to continue until a peace agreement is executed between Israel and the PLO - matching those signed by Israel with Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994
The interview exposed Obama’s flawed knowledge concerning the following crucial issues that are critical to properly understanding the conflict and positing its possible resolution:
1. The President claimed that the conflict had gone on “for decades” – rather than for the last 130 years –indicating the President is ignoring earlier international decisions made on Palestine including the San Remo Conference and the Treaty of Sevres in 1920, the League of Nations in 1922, the Treaty of Lausanne 1923, the Peel Commission in 1937, the British White Paper 1939, the United Nations in 1945 and 1947, and the unification of Judea and Samaria with Transjordan in 1950 following the invasion of Palestine by six Arab armies in 1948.The President agreed with this claim by Goldberg:
2. The President spoke of the “Palestinian territories” – rather than the “disputed territories” - where internationally recognized sovereignty has remain undetermined since 1948.
3. The President referred to an existing “Palestinian Authority” - which had ceased to exist on 3 January 2013.
“It’s been the official position of the United States for decades that settlements are illegitimate”
Elliott Abrams – Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations -dismisses this urban myth:
“The U.S. position has fluctuated over time. In the Reagan years, the United States said the settlements were “not illegal.” The Clinton and George H.W. Bush administrations avoided the legal arguments but criticized the settlements frequently. President George W. Bush called the larger settlement blocs ”new realities on the ground” that would have to be reflected in peace negotiations.
More recently, the official U.S. attitude has been more critical. In 2011, the Obama administration vetoed a UN Security Council resolution calling the settlements “illegal” but former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice then denounced “the folly and illegitimacy” of continued Israeli settlement activity. “The United States of America views all of the settlements as illegitimate,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in August 2013.”
Who is feeding the President with misleading and false information to justify these comments to Goldberg?
The President’s lack of vision became obviously apparent with his following comment:
“I have not yet heard, however, a persuasive vision of how Israel survives as a democracy and a Jewish state at peace with its neighbors in the absence of a peace deal with the Palestinians and a two-state solution. Nobody has presented me a credible scenario.”
Amazingly - with the State Department evidently unable to present Obama with any credible scenarios in the event of the collapse of the “two-state solution” - President Obama then challenged Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu to come up with a plausible alternative:
“If he [Netanyahu] does not believe that a peace deal with the Palestinians is the right thing to do for Israel, then he needs to articulate an alternative approach. And as I said before, it’s hard to come up with one that’s plausible.”
Netanyahu had articulated an alternative approach at the United Nations on 11 December 1984 – one which apparently has gone missing from the State Department’s extensive archival records:
“Clearly, in Eastern and Western Palestine, there are only two peoples, the Arabs and the Jews. Just as clearly, there are only two states in that area, Jordan and Israel. The Arab State of Jordan, containing some three million Arabs, does not allow a single Jew to live there. It also contains 4/5 of the territory originally allocated by this body’s predecessor, the League of Nations, for the Jewish National Home. The other State, Israel, has a population of over four million, of which one sixth is Arab. It contains less than 1/5 of the territory originally allocated to the Jews under the Mandate…. It cannot be said, therefore, that the Arabs of Palestine are lacking a state of their own. The demand for a second Palestinian Arab State in Western Palestine, and a 22nd Arab State in the world, is merely the latest attempt to push Israel back into the hopelessly vulnerable armistice lines of 1949.”
Netanyahu’s recounting of history, geography and demography present at least two credible – and plausible – scenarios for President Obama to consider:
1. Reunifying the heavily populated Arab areas of the West Bank (Areas “A” and “B” designated under the Oslo Accords) with Jordan – as existed between 1950-1967Jordan’s King Abdullah needs to step up to the plate – and Obama must not let him refuse to do so.
2. Direct negotiations between Israel and Jordan – the two successor States to the Mandate for Palestine - to redraw the existing international boundary between their respective States.
President Obama – presently sinking in murky political quicksand – can still be saved by grabbing Netanyahu's 1984 lifeline with both hands.