Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Gulf Summit and I/P

Dear Friend,

While I'm preparing my response to today's Sentinel op-ed, I thought I would put together some relevant material to put Obama's Gulf Summit into perspective, especially as it relates to our region. US Middle East policies are in flux.

With President Obama inviting leaders of the Gulf states to Washington today (May 13, 2015) and Camp David tomorrow, interest is heightened as to his views on US Middle East policy, and especially with regards to Israel/Palestine.

He was recently interviewed by Asharq Al-Awsat, a leading Arabic-language newspaper. This summit of Gulf State leaders is perhaps the most significant in the last 50 years. It is a far-ranging interview, covering Yemen, Syria, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, and Egypt. We are especially interested in what he says about I/P. Here are the relevant paragraphs:

Q: There was much appreciation for your initial efforts to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine and have a two-state solution. And yet those efforts have been met by obstruction from various sides. Have you given up on reaching the two-state solution before the end of your presidency, and if not, how can you change the dynamic?

I will never give up on the hope for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and the United States will never stop working to realize that goal. As I said when I visited Ramallah two years ago, Palestinians deserve an end to the occupation and the daily indignities that come with it; they deserve to live in an independent, sovereign state, where they can give their children a life of dignity and opportunity. And as I said in my speech to the Israeli people on that same trip, peace between Israelis and Palestinians is necessary, it is just, and it is possible. It is also in the national security interest of the United States. That’s why we’ve worked so hard over the years for a two-state solution and to develop innovative ways to address Israel’s security and Palestinian sovereignty needs.

With the breakdown of talks, simmering tension in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, last summer’s conflict in Gaza, and serious questions about overall commitment to a two-state outcome, it’s no secret that we now have a very difficult path forward. As a result, the United States is taking a hard look at our approach to the conflict.

We look to the new Israeli government and the Palestinians to demonstrate—through policies and actions—a genuine commitment to a two-state solution. Only then can trust be rebuilt and a cycle of escalation avoided. Addressing the lasting impact in Gaza of last summer’s conflict should also be central to any effort. Ultimately, the parties will need to address not just Gaza’s immediate humanitarian and reconstruction needs, but also core challenges to Gaza’s future within a two-state context, including reinvigorating Gaza’s connection with the West Bank and reestablishing strong commercial links with Israel and the global economy.

Here is now a lead article in today’s Haaretz newspaper (the leading “liberal” newspaper in Israel):

Despite Obama's demand, Netanyahu's coalition guidelines make no commitment to Palestinian state
Neither of Netanyahu's previous two governments made commitment to two states either, but Israel's international standing and the demands of the U.S. and Europe have changed the playing field.
By Barak Ravid | May 13, 2015 | 1:19 PM |
A document detailing the basic guidelines of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's new coalition, presented Wednesday to the Knesset, bears no mention of the solution of "two states for two peoples" nor does it include any intention of establishing a Palestinian state.
The document includes a general statement alone according to which, "the government will advance the diplomatic process and will strive for a peace agreement with the Palestinians and with all of our neighbors."
The document also mentions that the government will push for a diplomatic peace process while preserving Israel's security and national historical interests. "If an agreement of this kind is reached, it will be brought for the approval of the cabinet and the Knesset, and if necessary, for a national referendum as well," the document on the coalition guidelines says.
The wording of the political clause in the document is similar to the wording used in Netanyahu's previous government in 2009 and 2013. Neither of those two government expressed commitment to a two-state solution either – mainly due to the opposition of many members of Likud and its coalition partners on the right. . . . .

Friends, here are my thoughts:
“Ending the Occupation” is a code phrase in Israel, for dismantling the Jewish/Israeli State. Israel, especially under the new Likud administration will not “stand for” it.

The Two-State solution has been dead at least since 1967, when Israel’s rulers decided against a “deal” to divide up the conquered territory with Palestinians, satisfying their quest for an independent state. After what happened in the Israeli War for Independence in 1948 (driving out the Palestinians), the Israelis can never trust the (possible) good intentions of the Palestinian people to co-exist with the Israeli interlopers.

It does appear that President Obama is going to hold Prime Minister Yetanyahu to his electioneering comment that Likud will never conclude a treaty granting Palestinian state-hood, “under his watch”.

Yet, Obama holds to the politically correct view that the “Two-State” solution is still the official view.
Many of us are strongly of the opinion that the way forward is to continue to press for a One State solution with liberty and justice for all the inhabitants of the land (and justice for the millions of refugees who were displaced by the Israeli Occupation).

The Separation Barrier continues to prevent previous human/interpersonal contact between ordinary Israelis and Palestinians, thus intensifying “us vs. them” adversarial relations. The immediate future is more and more bleak in my view. Hopefully, the logjam that intensifies will be released as a few of the logs (settlements, Palestinian disunity, popular apathy) are slowly removed.

Stay tuned for developments.