Thursday, September 25, 2014

Obama's UN speech in re I/P: a Critique

A lot has been commented on in re broader US Middle East policies. Little about how the American President articulated the US position in re I/P. What follows is a summary, a critique and tentative conclusion. JRK

The Barack Obama Declaration on Middle East (I/P) “Peace”

(Excerpts from the President’s UN speech, Sept. 24, 2014)

. . . .We deeply believe it is in our interest to see a Middle East and North Africa that is peaceful and prosperous; and will continue to promote democracy, human rights, and open markets, because we believe these practices achieve peace and prosperity. But I also believe that we can rarely achieve these objectives through unilateral American action – particularly with military action. Iraq shows us that democracy cannot be imposed by force. Rather, these objectives are best achieved when we partner with the international community, and with the countries and people of the region.
What does this mean going forward? In the near term, America’s diplomatic efforts will focus on two particular issues: 1) Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, 2) and the Arab-Israeli conflict. While these issues are not the cause of all the region’s problems, they have been a major source of instability for far too long, and resolving them can help serve as a foundation for a broader peace. . . . [then follows a section on the US and Iran. . . .Then, the following paragraphs in re I/P]:

We are also determined to resolve a conflict that goes back even further than our differences with Iran: the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. I have made clear that the United States will never compromise our commitment to Israel’s security, nor our support for its existence as a Jewish state. Earlier this year, in Jerusalem, I was inspired by young Israelis who stood up for the belief that peace was necessary, just, and possible, and I believe there is a growing recognition within Israel that the occupation of the West Bank is tearing at the democratic fabric of the Jewish state. But the children of Israel have the right to live in a world where the nations assembled in this body fully recognize their country, and unequivocally reject those who fire rockets at their homes or incite others to hate them.

Likewise, the United States remains committed to the belief that the Palestinian people have a right to live with security and dignity in their own sovereign state. On the same trip, I had the opportunity to meet with young Palestinians in Ramallah whose ambition and potential are matched by the pain they feel in having no firm place in the community of nations. They are understandably cynical that real progress will ever be made, and frustrated by their families enduring the daily indignity of occupation. But they recognize that two states is the only real path to peace: because just as the Palestinian people must not be displaced, the state of Israel is here to stay.
The time is now ripe for the entire international community to get behind the pursuit of peace. Already, Israeli and Palestinian leaders have demonstrated a willingness to take significant political risks. President Abbas has put aside efforts to short-cut the pursuit of peace and come to the negotiating table. Prime Minister Netanyahu has released Palestinian prisoners, and reaffirmed his commitment to a Palestinian state. Current talks are focused on final status issues of borders and security, refugees and Jerusalem.

Now the rest of us must also be willing to take risks. Friends of Israel, including the United States, must recognize that Israel’s security as a Jewish and democratic state depends upon the realization of a Palestinian state. Arab states – and those who have supported the Palestinians – must recognize that stability will only be served through a two-state solution with a secure Israel. All of us must recognize that peace will be a powerful tool to defeat extremists, and embolden those who are prepared to build a better future. Moreover, ties of trade and commerce between Israelis and Arabs could be an engine of growth and opportunity at a time when too many young people in the region are languishing without work. So let us emerge from the familiar corners of blame and prejudice, and support Israeli and Palestinian leaders who are prepared to walk the difficult road to peace.

Real breakthroughs on these two issues – Iran’s nuclear program, and Israeli-Palestinian peace – would have a profound and positive impact on the entire Middle East and North Africa. But the current convulsions arising out of the Arab Spring remind us that a just and lasting peace cannot be measured only by agreements between nations. It must also be measured by our ability to resolve conflict and promote justice within nations. And by that measure, it is clear to all of us that there is much more work to be done.

1. The US is determined to “resolve a conflict” between Arab Palestinians and Israelis

2. The US will continue to support the existence of the (present) Jewish (democratic) State

3. The “Occupation” is “tearing at the democratic fabric of the Jewish State”

4. The US (Pres. Obama) reiterates our commitment to the “Two State” solution to the “conflict”

5. Israel has the right to secure state, defined borders. So do the Palestinians (as declared during my I/P visit)

6. Leaders from both sides must show a “willingness to take risks” to achieve this goal

7. There are current talks “focused on final status issues” to accomplish this goal

8. “Friends of Israel” need to realize the Two State solution is vital for the security and viability of the Jewish State

9. Arab States (and pro-Palestinians) must recognize that STABILITY will only be served when the Two State solution is realized (with a “secure Israel”)


1. It is beyond US power to resolve any “conflict” between Palestinians and Israelis. We’ve tried that. A lot

2. The US’s unqualified support of the present Status Quo militates against any incentive to make the necessary changes toward Two State solution by either party, especially by the Israelis

3. Israel has never publically faced up to their being an Occupying Power in land that “belongs” to Palestinians, who have long been denied basic rights as full citizens, right of return, compensation, etc

4. Neither the present extremist Zionist government, nor the HAMAS extremists desire a Two State “solution”

5. Israel has never shown any willingness ever to “define its borders”; rather it insists on open-ended, evolving land use for the development of their ethnocentric (Jewish) state (that excludes non-Jews)

6. The self-preservation instincts of both Israeli and Palestinian leadership militate against “taking risks”

7. There is no reason to believe the “current talks” will lead anywhere, certainly not toward the Two State

8. Friends of Israel, especially in the US, insist on the right of Israel to pursue its present One State agenda

9. Arab States have long realized the futility of reaching the “Two State” solution (and are less than enthusiastic about a “secure” Israel, given the systematic discrimination against Palestinian citizens and refugees)

The President’s prescription/outline takes us nowhere. It is a non-starter. It is “same old, same old”

This “Declaration” puts all the burden on failed leaders whose inclinations are to take NO RISKS for resolution!

It is a reiteration of failed US policies that have not “worked” in the past, and will not “work” into the future

Progress will depend on the grassroots/groundswell that the President and Congress begin questioning and withholding unqualified support for the Status Quo.