During the lead up to his election victory, President Obama surrounded himself with a host of vehemently anti-Israel advisors including Lee Hamilton, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Samantha Power, Susan Rice and Gen Jones, many of whom advocated imposing a solution on Israel .
He also made common cause with Jewish leftists represented by J Street and Israel Policy Forum who were urging him to increase the pressure on Israel and if that didn’t work, to impose a solution on Israel.
So it was no surprise that he started his term of office by attacking Israel , America ’s best and most steadfast ally, declaring that all settlements were illegal and demanding a complete settlement construction freeze east of the green line including in Jerusalem. He went so far as to repudiate the US commitment set out in the Bush letter ’04 to Sharon, declaring there was no agreement. Elliot Abrams and others involved in the negotiations which led to the letter, testified otherwise.
This letter also affirmed that “as part of a final peace settlement, Israel must have secure and recognized borders, which should emerge from negotiations between the parties in accordance with UNSC Resolutions 242 and 338.” President Bush had always supported a negotiated settlement and this letter did likewise. Noticeably absent was any reference to the Saudi Plan. The letter also contained a commitment, that “the United States will do its utmost to prevent any attempt by anyone to impose any other plan.”
By repudiating this letter as a U.S. commitment, President Obama opened the way for a settlement to be imposed according to the Saudi Plan rather than Res 242.
He set a goal of achieving an agreement in two years. One year is up, what has he accomplished? At first blush, it would appear, not much. But the reality is otherwise.
He got PM Netanyahu to agree to a two-state solution for the first time and to the terms of reference for negotiations, namely, “an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps, and the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security requirements.” These terms leave very little wiggle room so it does not matter that President Obama agreed with PM Netanyahu’s demand that there be no pre-conditions or that negotiations not start where Ehud Olmert left off.
Noticeably absent from the terms of reference were Jerusalem and refugees, two items that could scuttle talks and probably will. President Obama is on record of wanting Jerusalem divided and not favoring the return of refugees to Israel
He also got Netanyahu to agree to a temporary constructions freeze, not near what he was demanding, but enough to enable him to get Abbas to agree to the proximity talks.
Since attaining these building blocks, President Obama has witnessed falling approval ratings and increasing pressure to focus on domestic issues. How will this affect the progress made?
The Arab League has given its support to “proximity talks” but only for four months. This has enabled Abbas to likewise agree. The talks therefore will start soon and end before the temporary freeze ends. But no one expects an agreement to be reached.
The U.S. managed to accomplish this by sending a document to the Palestinians responding to their inquiries which provided, “We expect both parties to act seriously and in good faith. If one side, in our judgment, is not living up to our expectations, we will make our concerns clear and we will act accordingly to overcome that obstacle.”
The document also committed the US to “sharing messages between the parties and offering our own ideas and bridging proposals.” and reiterated “Our core remains a viable, independent and sovereign Palestinian State with contiguous territory that ends the occupation that began in 1967.”
This commitment by the U.S. was a determining factor in the Palestinians’ and the Arab League’s decision to agree to the U.S. proposal on indirect talks.
Both the agreed terms of reference above quoted and this document imply that Israel must return all occupied territories rather than some occupied territories as was the original intention of Res 242.
One wonders why PM Netanyahu would enter fruitless negotiations that would result in Israel being blamed and ultimately dictated to. In doing so, PM Netanyahu abandoned Israel ’s previous demands for direct negotiations thereby allowing the Arab League to have a say. For that matter, Abbas also abandoned a long held position that only the PA can negotiate on behalf of the Palestinians.
The Arab League has thus given Obama four months only to achieve an agreement, failing which it will take over the process. President Obama is only too happy to pass the buck.
This in effect would abrogate the Oslo Accords and the Roadmap which heretofore have been considered binding.
Israel could well be ordered to submit to arbitration or judicial settlement. Perhaps this is the reason PM Netanyahu keeps reaffirming Israel ’s desire to negotiate.
The EU is already on board. European Union foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, told a British audience in London on Saturday,
“After a fixed deadline, a UN Security Council resolution should proclaim the adoption of the two-state solution.”
President Obama may well decide to posture as Israel ’s defender and save her from the worst thereby improving his reelection chances without jeopardizing the imposed solution. For him, a win-win all around, that is, if Israel doesn’t reject it.