The Clashing Visions of Obama and Netanyahu

In a blink of an eye, the world has changed.  But the visions of many world leaders remain myopic and mired in the past.  Nothing more represents this truth than the stance that Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel has taken.  In the face of a political tsunami in the Middle East, “BiBi” Netanyahu stands, despite statements otherwise, steadfastly against any realistic peace deal – i.e. a real “two state” solution to the Palestinian-Israeli dispute.

With each day of stalemate and of the added provocation of building new settlements, Israel is further condemned to a policy of constant war and conflict. The Israeli people deserve better.  Almost every strategic analyst believes that every day Israel is more and more vulnerable to attack by advanced weapons.  Every day, the country is more and more isolated not just from the Arab states but from the rest of the world.

It is not enough to castigate Hamas, which is deserved.  If Israeli would offer a roadmap for peace and a fair solution for the Palestinians that involves joint concessions for peace, it would undercut all that Hamas lives on.  Many Palestinians have shown they are willing to move towards a fair agreement.

But as long as Israel continues to build settlements in areas that the world says belong legally to the Palestinians, Netanyahu and other right-wing leaders jeopardize Israel’s future existence.  New weaponry and political and demographic inevitabilities have the most dire consequences for Israel.

President Obama is also caught between U.S. domestic political realities regarding Israel and the certainty of a building regional–indeed global–conflagration.  Our inability or unwillingness to take the initiative threatens both American and Israeli security.

In two recent speeches, his major Middle East address and his talk with AIPAC, Obama tried to show balance. He attempted to reach out to the emerging and powerful new Arab Street and at the same time to reaffirm America’s historical commitment to Israeli security. In normal times, that policy would be appropriate and wise.  But these are not normal times.

Obama needs to embrace a roadmap to an Israeli-Palestinian peace and to drive down that road.  The only path to a stable Middle East and secure Israel is the one Netanyahu opposes–a “two state” solution with security for both sides and concessions neither would otherwise want to make.  Without such a map, the U.S. risks following Israel into the abyss.

By Harry C. Blaney III.

One thought on “The Clashing Visions of Obama and Netanyahu

  1. Harry C. Blaney III May 26, 2011 / 3:12 PM

    Egypt has just announced that it will permanently open its Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip starting this week-end. This act puts another affirmation that Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu’s policies of confrontation, stalling, and double-talk have failed the Israeli people and the long-term hope for peace. He has already threatened to withhold taxes due to the PLO which only increased the range on the West Bank.

    Now there will be an unlimited crossing into Egypt and likely the flow of trade that so far Israel has tried to cut off with its policy of “isolation.” There will likely also be aid flowing in also. All of this is due to Egypt’s brokering of a peace deal between the Fatah PLO and Hamas. All this while Israel stood by in frozen rigidity.

    Egypt’s state-run news agency said the act was intended to “end the status of the Palestinian division and achieve national reconciliation.” But it also signals the end of the previous Egyptian policies which were supportive of pressuring Hamas into a unity deal – which worked because of the stupidity of the right-wing Israeli government.

    The sad part is that this could lead to more unneeded tension on the Israeli – Gaza border and the supply of arms to the strip. There are actions Israeli can take but they are likely to only result in further conflict and isolation and undermine the possibility of near and mid-term peace negotiations and reconciliation which would harm American goals for peace and cooperation in the region.

    We can expect after this action, which will be greeted throughout the Arab world, other initiatives aimed at giving Palestinians more support this Fall with a massive vote in the United Nations recognizing their statehood.

    Based on the discussions in London with the UK, it is possible that much of the EU will vote with the Arab nations, and America and Israel will virtually be alone in their opposition. This will undermine America’s goal of establishing a stance of friendship and cooperation in the region and our still-shaky association with the Arab Spring which has been helped our ability to play a more positive role in the region and help better the peace process. So both American and Israeli true interests will be harmed!

    In “re-thinking national security” one has to assess the changing landscape and adapt to new realities and risks, and this is not being done. It seems narrow domestic politics have undone both countries’ best interests and mutual security.

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