OBAMA GOES TO THE MIDDLE EAST

Prime Minister Netanyahu now has a fully functioning cabinet and is preparing to welcome the American president. The same is true for P.A. President Abbas and King Abdullah of Jordan. Of course, President Obama will avoid Syria where the bloody fighting continues. Egypt remains upside down. Washington has already made it clear that Obama will not be bringing any new proposals for peace to the Middle East. Rather his unannounced objective will be to repair relations with Netanyahu and the Israeli people. As I reported previously, Romney substantially out-polled Obama in Israel during the last election. Probably, the main topic of conversation in Israel will be the containment of nuclear weapons in Iran.

One of the issues that will not go away is why peace between Israel and the Palestinians cannot be achieved. Why indeed! In trying to gain a balanced perspective, one cannot avoid recognizing the fact that peace would seem to be the most beneficial for the Palestinians. Consider the question from a decidedly Palestinian perspective.

Samir Shehadeh, a former literature professor from Nabi Saleh and one of the architects of the first intifada, recently said that the situation is l,000 times worse today than it was before the first uprising. He noted that these armed struggles have only deteriorated the situation in the West Bank. The Oslo accords created a phantom state with an impotent administrative government. Israel controlled everything from water resources to finances. What sprang up was the “Ramallah bubble” with a carefree affluent citizenry having a privileged way of life for the sons of the politicians while the rest of the country struggles. Regardless of what the P.A. authorities say in public, they know their luxuries exist at the pleasure of Israel.

Meanwhile, the Israelis continue to chip away at the borders. Netanyahu recently announced plan to build 3,400 settlements houses in an area called El. These unites would effectively cut off Jerusalem from the West Bank. No matter what the West demands, such projects continue and make it almost impossible for the Palestinians to regain some portion of Jerusalem as their area.

Do the Israelis know this fact? Of course, they do.

So, here’s the question once more. Why don’t the Palestinians and the Israelis reach a settlement? The longer it takes, the more Israel gains.

From a Palestinian perspective, I cannot find any good answer to this question. They can scream, threaten, as well as send missiles from Gaza, but they continue to slide. They would have done better to settle before the first Intifada than to have allowed what has followed. The Israelis know this downhill slide exists and aren’t about to destroy it with some miscalculated action on their part.

American foreign policy now recognizes this reality and has come to the conclusion that Israel and the Palestinians must want peace more than America does. Consequently, President Obama isn’t coming with any new ideas. The only change on the horizon will be in Iran (if they don’t retreat from their present nuclear course).

Let’s hope and pray that both Israel and the Palestinians will opt for a better path.

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