Obama Ruminates While Palestine Gestates

By: David Singer

President Obama is clearly frustrated that his efforts to achieve the resumption of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority have failed during the past twelve months.

The President made this abundantly clear as he recently reflected on the success or otherwise of his policies during the first year of his Presidency when he was frank enough to tell Time Magazine in an interview on 21 January:

” that the Middle East peace process has not moved forward. And I think it’s fair to say that for all our efforts at early engagement, its not where I want it to be. …This is as intractable a problem as you can get.”

Despite the President’s disappointment he still expressed the following optimism:

“Moving forward, though, we are going to continue to work with both parties to recognize what I think is ultimately their deep-seated interest in a two-state solution in which Israel is secure and the Palestinians have sovereignty…”

President Obama should be comforted by the fact that there has been little movement in the two-state solution since it was first recommended by the Peel Commission in 1937 and rejected by the Arabs.

The two-state solution has continued to be rejected by the Arabs since then – when offered subsequently by the United Nations in 1947, the Oslo Accords in 1993, and by Israel itself in 2001 and 2008.

Moreover the two-state solution could have been created by the stroke of an Arab League pen between 1948-1967 in the entire area the Palestinian Arabs and the Arab League now demand in 2010 – the West Bank,Gaza and East Jerusalem. This was at a time when not one Jew lived there since they had all been driven out of their homes by the invading Egyptian and Jordanian armies in 1948.

19 years of missed opportunity by the Arabs in solving what is now seen by President Obama as an “intractable problem” needs to also be taken into account by him when considering what steps are to be taken if the current problem involving the allocation of sovereignty in the remaining 6% of Mandatory Palestine – approximately the size of Delaware – is to ever be resolved between the Jews and the Arabs. Sovereignty in the other 94% was divided between Jordan in 1946 (78%) and Israel in 1948 (16%).

If the two-state solution – which involves the creation of a new Arab state between Israel, Jordan and Egypt – is the ultimate solution to the problem as President Obama still appears to believe – then the President seems to have hit on the two current major road blocks that are hampering such a resolution as his 21 January interview makes clear when he stated:

“From [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas’ perspective, he’s got Hamas looking over his shoulder and, I think, an environment generally within the Arab world that feels impatient with any process.”

The fact that the Palestinian Arabs are divided as never before into two warring factions – Hamas and Fatah – each exercising power and control over different and non-adjacent territories – Gaza and the West Bank – makes the possibility of any two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinian Authority totally unachievable until there is one voice and one authority able to deal with, conclude, respect and enforce any negotiated settlement with Israel.

The Arab world also continues to make unreasonable and unjustified demands – parroted by the Palestinian Authority – that have remained unchanged since 1967 claiming:

1. Sovereignty in 100% of the West Bank and Gaza and the eviction of the 500000 Jews who now live there
2. The right for millions of Arabs to be allowed to emigrate to – and live in – Israel

Until these Arab demands are ameliorated any hope of ever achieving a two-state solution is unattainable.

The Arab belief that President Obama will get Israel to agree to these demands is also fanciful in the extreme.

In a subsequent interview on ABC with Diane Sawyer on 25 January President Obama said:

“You know,there is a tendency in Washington to believe our job description, of elected officials, is to get re-elected. That’s not our job description. Our job description is to solve problems and to help people.”

As President Obama ruminates on the failure of his Administration to achieve any breakthrough in allocating sovereignty in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem – he needs to think about the efforts of former American Presidents Clinton and Bush who similarly found their attempts to solve the same problem crowned with ignominy and failure during their respective terms in office.

President Obama should then be readily able to conclude that now is not the right time to try and resolve the issue of sovereignty whilst

1. Fatah and Hamas continue to go for each other’s jugular
2. The Arabs do not change their negotiating stance of “100% of the West Bank and Gaza or nothing” and their claimed right to emigrate and live in Israel.

These are the areas where President Obama should be directing his efforts at the present time – rather than engaging in diplomatic shuttles aimed at achieving yet one more meaningless round of negotiations and photo opportunities that will lead nowhere whilst these intransigent and unyielding Arab positions remain as obstacles to any form of two-state solution ever being achieved.

If the President can engender a real change in these entrenched Arab positions – then the opportunities for solving the unsolvable will be greatly increased.

Perhaps one indication that President Obama is beginning to understand that this kind of resolute action is required can be found in his failure to mention one word concerning the resumption of the stalled negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in his State Of The Union address delivered on 27 January.

If President Obama fails to get the Arabs to change their current negotiating stance – then he can assuredly look forward to ending his second year of office experiencing the same disappointment and frustration in making any breakthrough in achieving the two-state solution that has marked the end of his first year in the White House.

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