May 29, 2009

Obama's Peace Process

Many people are engaged in all sorts of speculation about the president’s real feelings regarding Israel. The prognosticators are out in force and I have read numerous articles and opinion pieces that lay out exactly what he is trying to do and why.

Since I haven’t been granted clairvoyance or any other sort of supernatural powers I won’t try to tell you what the president’s feelings are. Truth is that I hope that he doesn’t try to negotiate terms based upon feelings, but upon facts.

And the fact is that the peace process is a thorny and complex issue that cannot be solved by making proclamations that are supposed to make both sides feel good. As just another pundit I am just as qualified as the next guy to say that part of the problem is the attempt to try and view this situation in Western terms.

This isn't the playground. It is not a school yard brawl or a situation where you can slap a kid on the wrist and tell them to be nice. It is not a place where treating others as you wish to be treated means that it will happen. It is a rough and tumble environment where weakness is seen an invitation to be exploited.

And now the president has provided an opening for such behavior. As I said before, I am not going to suggest that he hates Israel, Jews etc. In some ways it doesn't matter. He can be doing this out of sheer altruism and a belief that he is helping the world. The end result is still problematic.

One of the biggest obstacles to conducting peace talks is the lack of a unified Palestinian government. Abbas does not speak for Hamas. Hamas does not recognize Israel. That is a pretty big stumbling block.

But there is more. The Washington Post reports that Abbas passed on a very serious and quite generous offer from former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Here is what was offered
  • 97% of the West Bank
  • Right of Return for Palestinian refugees
  • East Jerusalem
Why did he turn it down? Because he felt that the gaps were too wide. In an interview on Al Jazeera Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat lays out why. It comes down to a refusal to provide acknowledgement of a Jewish connection to the Temple Mount.

And that refusal to recognize the Jewish connection, to accept that it is legitimate is a central reason why the peace process will ultimately fail. If Obama really wants to affect change then he needs to try and find a way to bridge that gap.

I don't know about you, but I am not real optimistic.

(Hat tip: Jewlicious)

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