Thursday, September 02, 2010

Obama warns Middle East leaders 'chance may not come again soon'.

George Bush favoured Israel "too much" according to a majority of Americans, who wanted to see Israel penalised for building new settlements on Palestinian land.

And yet, often, when US politicians vote on matters relating to Israel and the Middle East, they produce a uniformity of opinion which resembles the kind of landslides only achieved in dictatorships or banana republics.

So, Obama has a very good point when he reminds Netanyahu and Abbas that they are facing, a "moment of opportunity that may not soon come again".

A majority of US politicians don't appear to want peace in the Middle East, or they certainly don't favour any pressure ever being applied to the Israelis to bring such a peace about.

Under Bush's disgraceful presidency the Palestinians were mistreated and subjected to Israeli wars and blockades, with not a single word of protest from the American president.

Under Obama, it feels different. Obama is at least attempting to be an honest broker, which the fury of certain US politicians attests to.

"The purpose of the talks is clear. These will be direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. These negotiations are intended to resolve all final status issues. The goal is a settlement negotiated between the parties that ends the occupation which began in 1967, and results in the emergence of an independent democratic and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with a Jewish state of Israel and its other neighbours," he said. "We are under no illusions. Passions run deep. Each side has legitimate and enduring interests. Years of mistrust will not disappear overnight ...

"After all, there's a reason that the two state solution has eluded previous generations. This is extraordinarily complex and extraordinarily difficult. But we know that the status quo is unsustainable."

The president said that it was in the national interests of all involved, including the US, that the conflict be brought to a peaceful conclusion.

Again, Obama stresses that it is "the US's interest" that this matter be resolved. He is the first president I know to make this distinction, to imply that US interests and Israeli interests are not one and the same.

This is why he makes me believe that he is serious about being an honest broker, as other US politicians appear to think that the US must always side with Israel.
"This administration is doing things that I think jeopardize our national security because they are playing such hardball with our ally in the region," said Representative Eric Cantor, the number two House Republican.

"Peace is what we are about in this country and we're about trying to facilitate that, but it should be peace on Israel's terms," he said in a breakfast with reporters to discuss the dispute.
It is this natural tendency to always take the side of the Israelis which has prevented peace between the two sides. The US has never asked that Israel compromise, it has always insisted that any deal reached should favour the Israelis, rather than insist that Israel adhere to international law. They have always favoured asking that the occupied people ensure the security of their occupiers rather than seriously engaging in the ending of the occupation.

So, with someone as fair as Obama in the White House, it is, as he says, a "moment of opportunity that may not soon come again". And yet, still, I can muster no confidence in the proceedings. For one reason and one reason alone: I simply do not believe that Netanyahu is serious about peace. I cannot envision any scenario where this man is able to sell peace, should he even want to, to the right wing coalition which he leads. And this scepticism is replicated I notice in both Israel and Palestine.
The White House initiative has been met with wide scepticism in Israel and the occupied territories over whether the other side is ready for peace, particularly given the rejection by hard-right members of Netanyahu's cabinet of compromises such as dismantling settlements.
The thing I don't understand about this is the Israeli intransigence. A two state solution suits the Israelis as, because of demographics, a one state solution would mean the destruction of Israel in all but name. And even the name might go.

Why can't Netanyahu and the Israeli right wingers see that? The world will not watch Israel ethnically cleanse that land of the Palestinians, so what solution - other than a two state solution - do Israeli right wingers envisage? An Apartheid state in which they control a people to whom they deny a vote? A continuation of the present system in which violence always bubbles away just below the surface? What?

I simply don't get it.

It is in Israel's best interests for Netanyahu to seize this moment, and yet I have no faith that he will do so.

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