Sunday, March 31, 2013

Obama's visit

Looking back on Pres. Obama's visit here last week, he delivered many kind words of support for Israel, particularly in relation to the threat from Iran  He has really changed the dynamics of what we perceived as his former lack of feeling towards Israel.  But, let's face it, if he wanted to visit the Middle East, where else could he go?  Not Egypt again, things have changed drastically there since his first term, certainly not Syria engaged in a vicious civil war, nor Lebanon increasingly involved in the Syrian conflcit, only Jordan, and even there the signs of instability are showing.  Israel is the only stable democracy in the Middle East that a US President could visit safely, and he acknowledged that by his visit.
He connected Israel with its ancient past by visiting the Dead Sea Scrolls in the Israel Museum and with its more recent Zionist history by visiting the grave of Theodor Herzl.  But, in his speech to the selected student audience he made what I regard as several errors: 1. Israel does not "occupy" the West Bank; the territories of Judea and Samaria are an integral part of the Land of Israel as envisaged under the San Remo Treaty of 1920 and have never been under recognized Palestinian or Arab sovereignty, Israel is there by right; 2. Obama claimed that Pres. Abbas and PM Fayyad are "partners for peace" with Israel.  But, he failed to acknowledge that their current tenure is illegal, since there has been no election in the PA for 6 years and the split with Gaza makes them unable to negotiate with Israel on behalf of all Palestinians; 3. By insisting in his first term that Israel stop building in the West Bank, he has given Pres. Abbas a precondition that he will never abandon as a means to avoid actually negotiating with Israel. 
These facts make Pres. Obama's mantra of "the two-state solution" questionable at best.  In history, circumstances change and alternatives reveal themselves. Hamas may take over the West Bank and result in further hostilities with Israel that could have unintended consequences; Jordan may collapse as a Hashemite Kingdom and become a predominantly Palestinian State; Syria may become a  launching pad for attacks against Israel by Islamists with yet more hostility in the future; Hizbollah may over-reach itself.  In the fulness of time a resolution of the situation will occur, but the "two-state solution" is a non-starter for the foreseeable future.  It is better to have a more flexible approach to foreign policy than to commit oneself to one unlikely outcome. 


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