Palestine – Obama Clarifies Stance On West Bank And Gaza

By: David Singer

President Obama has signalled that he does not intend to impose his own two-state solution on Israel and the Palestinian Authority in a letter sent by him to Alan Solow – the Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations dated 20 April 2010.

Rumors had been rife that President Obama was going to present his own two-state plan if the stalled negotiations under the Roadmap proposed in 2003 by his predecessor – George Bush – continued to remain in limbo or reached a dead end..

President Obama’s undertaking not to do so was given to Mr Solow in clear and unequivocal terms :

“I am deeply committed to fulfilling the important role the United States must play for peace to be realized, but I also recognize that in order for any agreement to endure, peace cannot be imposed from the outside…”

President Obama still apparently believes the two-state solution proposed by the Bush Roadmap – involving the creation of a new Arab state between Jordan, Egypt and Israel – can be achieved. He would be among the very few that still cling to that view.

However he has now made it clear that if it fails to eventuate in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority – he is not going try to impose his own version on Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Pointedly the President went further in his letter to Mr Solow when he stated:

“ … it (peace) must be negotiated directly by the leaders who are required to make the hard choices and compromises that take on history.”

Although this call was directed to both Jews and Arabs – it was primarily directed at both the Palestinian Authority and the Arab League who need to make the hard choices and compromises they have historically refused to concede until now.

Israel has already made many such choices and compromises that have turned history on its head including:

* Accepting the idea of a third State in Mandatory Palestine – in addition to Israel and Jordan
* Accepting the division of Jerusalem between Israel and an Arab entity
* Accepting the idea of compensating Arab refugees from the 1948 War – and their descendants -and possibly resettling some of those refugees in Israel

One can argue Israel can go further in the steps it is prepared to take in the face of such compromises- but this cannot deny or devalue the offers made by Israel in 2000 and 2008 in the context of those compromises – that were rejected by the Palestinian Authority.

The Palestinian Authority and the Arab League however should be in no doubt as to the meaning and intent of President Obama’s carefully crafted letter so far as it relates to them.

The Arab League has – for the last 62 years – singularly failed to change its policy on recognizing Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people and has unceasingly demanded the right for millions of Arab refugees and their descendants to return to Israel.

The Arab League has – for the last 43 years – maintained an unchanged policy in relation to demanding the return to Arab control of every square meter of the West Bank and Gaza lost to Israel in the Six Day War – in the face of Security Council Resolution 242.

These policies remained unchanged in the 2002 Saudi Peace Plan adopted by the Arab League and have stayed unamended despite their clear rejection by former President – George Bush – in a letter given to Israel’s then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on 14 April 2004.

Now this latest letter from President Obama – six years on from President Bush’s letter to Mr Sharon – indicates that the current American President understands that the Arabs need to heed the Bush message and start changing their intransigent stance if the two-state solution is to ever have any chance of coming to fruition.

The warning is clear – if the Arabs do not end their long standing failure to recognize Israel as the Jewish National Home, continue to demand sovereignty in 100% of the West Bank and Gaza and insist on the right of return – there can never be any negotiated peace deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

President Obama will not – in the vacuum that would be created – impose his own solution on them.

Certainly President Obama will still attempt to get Israel and the Palestinian Authority to reach a two-state solution by suggesting a number of steps that he believes can be taken to achieve that result.

But until there is a sea change in the long held Arab negotiating stance – Israel will be increasingly reluctant to make any further concessions .

Given seventeen failed years of attempting to achieve the two-state solution – accompanied in the last six years by the intense diplomatic effort of the Quartet to make it happen – it is difficult to see any chance of President Obama getting Israel and the Palestinian Authority to make the two-state solution a reality.

Lest the Arabs mistake President Obama’s message he added the following observation:

“ As for our relations with Israel, let me be very clear: we have a special relationship with Israel and that will not change. Our countries are bound together by shared values, deep and interwoven connections, and mutual interests. Many of the same forces that threaten Israel also threaten the United States and our efforts to secure peace and stability in the Middle East. Our alliance with Israel serves our national security interests.”

The President also made it clear that any decisions deemed by Israel to endanger its security would be ultimately accepted by America when he told Mr Solow:

“… our commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable and that no wedge will be driven between us. We will have our differences, but when we do, we will work to resolve them as close allies.”

President Obama has – in his letter to Mr Solow – clearly signaled that at some undetermined point of time America is prepared to walk away and leave the parties to reconcile their differences rather than seek to impose a solution – whilst also warning that the status quo serves no one‘s interest.

Making his stance known is welcome and should be acted on by the Palestinian Authority and the Arab League if they seriously hope – and really want – to achieve the two-state solution.

Those who currently seek to delegitimize Israel and isolate it in the international arena have also been put on notice that President Obama will not abandon the commitments made to the Jewish people over the last 90 years by both Republican and Democrat Presidents.

Jews world-wide will indeed be appreciative of – and welcome – President Obama’s timely letter to Mr Solow.