Palestine: Obama Should Quit While he is Ahead

November 17, 2010 by David Singer
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President Obama has now shown his hand on what he believes is possible in order for a new Palestinian Arab state to be created between Israel, Jordan and Egypt.

It is a losing hand. He should throw in the cards now before he ends up yet another failed President of the United States who like all his predecessors believed he could achieve a lasting peace to end a conflict that has gone on unresolved for the last 130 years.

President Obama’s ideas are contained in a Joint Statement of the Office of the Prime Minister of Israel and The Office of the Secretary of State of The United States publicly released on 11 November.

That Statement declares:

“the United States believes that through good-faith negotiations, the parties can mutually agree on an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state, based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps, and the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security requirements.”

President Obama has apparently given up on this new State being “democratic”  – a declared feature of President Bush’s Roadmap which stated:

“Such a settlement, negotiated between the parties, will result in the emergence of an independent, democratic Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel and its other neighbors”

The element of  “maximum territorial contiguity” expressed in the Bush Roadmap has also disappeared in this latest Statement indicating that President Obama sees the new State being created without Gaza figuring in the equation.

This is not surprising given the virtual state of warfare between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas. However the President’s belief that the PA will agree to abandon Gaza is hardly likely to be accepted by the PA  in any renewed negotiations between them – if indeed they are ever resumed, which at the moment hangs in the balance.

The reference to “land swaps” in the Statement does supposedly reflect a possible compromise discussed in the context of earlier negotiations between Israel’s then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and PA President Mahmoud Abbas in 2008. However an offer made by Israel to the PA at that time was rejected and there is no certainty the current Israeli Government is in a mood to consider land swaps now.

Israel would be comforted in rejecting land swaps having regard to the provisions of UN Security Council Resolution 242 – which did not require any such concession being made by Israel from its sovereign territory when its final borders between the West Bank and Gaza were ultimately determined.

President Obama’s belief that the PA will accept and recognize that Israel is a Jewish State as part of a final settlement flies in the face of everything that has been said by the Arab League, the Palestine Liberation Organization, the PA, Hamas and Hezbollah for the last 63 years.

Any Arab spokesman suggesting such a possibility would be dead the next day.

President Obama’s belief that the PA would accept that Israel’s secure and recognized boundaries will reflect subsequent developments (presumably that have occurred in the West Bank since 1967) – acknowledges that some Israeli settlements will become part of the State of Israel following the conclusion of a peace treaty with the PA.

.That may be his belief. It is certainly not the belief of the Arabs.

The Arab call for the West Bank to be ethnically cleansed of all Jewish settlement or recognition of Jews having any rights there at all was starkly revealed in an explanatory note sent to UNESCO on 19 March 2010 by Algeria, Egypt, Kuwait, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Tunisia.

That explanatory note declared:

“Israel’s military occupation of Palestinian territory is inherently temporary and does not give the occupying power (Israel) sovereignty or title over the occupied territory. “

The 2002 Saudi Peace Plan calls for Israel to withdraw to the armistice lines existing at 5 June 1967. This would now entail 500000 Jews voluntarily moving or being removed from their existing homes and businesses.

If President Obama believes these demands are going to be dropped by the PA in any resumed negotiations with Israel – then he is engaging on a flight of fancy.

Pushing the “two-state solution” in the belief it will pan out in the form suggested in the Joint Statement is to fly in the face of everything that has occurred in negotiations over the last 17 years.

President Obama needs to realize that at best any arrangement between the Jews and Arabs on a territorial division of the West Bank will not result in enduring peace between the Jews and the Arabs.

He needs to focus on bringing back Jordan into the negotiations to restore as far as possible the territorial status quo that existed in the West Bank at 5 June 1967. That remains the only way forward.

The President needs to focus on Jordan and leave the PA to its inevitable demise.

The sooner the President recognizes this fact the sooner he will be able to extricate himself from the quicksand of the two-state solution into which he is steadily sinking.

This proposed solution has so far claimed too many American Presidents. President Obama should quit while he is still ahead.

David Singer is a Sydney Lawyer and Foundation Member of the International Analysts Network

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