Running The Race - Israel And The Palestinians
The Israelis are running the race in a concerted attempt to thwart unilateral recognition of Palestinian statehood by the international community. Recently, Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon met with German Secretary of State Dr. Emily Haber in preparation for an upcoming Quartet meeting. The Quartet is expected to formulate a position on recognition of Palestinian statehood prior to a possible UN Security Council vote in September.
However, even before the September meeting, the UN Security Council is expected to discuss the possibility of “Palestine” becoming a UN member state. That could happen on July 26.
The political stage is being firmly set by Palestinian interlocutors, while at the same time, Israelis, Americans, Canadians, and some eastern European countries are expressing strong disapproval towards Palestinian political efforts. These nations do not want to see the Palestinians internationalize the Israeli-Palestinian conflict while also refusing to sit down in direct negotiations with Israel. So far, the Palestinians have not seriously addressed American opposition to their efforts. Nor have they seriously considered a threat by the U.S. Congress to cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority if such a declaration is brought to a vote before the UN Security Council.
Meanwhile, Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman recently stated that he thinks an arrangement with leaders of the Quartet, the U.S. and the EU, to abandon any unilateral initiative, can be successfully achieved.
Pro-Israel supporters should be asking the question, “What is Israel going to concede to the international community to thwart unilateral recognition of Palestinian statehood?” Already, 125 -130 countries are willing to vote favorably towards the Palestinian position in September at the UN.
On July 6, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., Dr. Michael Oren, spoke about Israeli and American concerns regarding current Palestinian political efforts. During a conference call with journalists, sponsored by The Israel Project, Oren discussed issues related to the failed peace process. He said that Israel has been engaged in intense talks with U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration, drafting a common platform for moving the peace process forward. This includes elements of Obama’s speeches in May 2011 in Washington.
The two allies are in agreement regarding Israel’s need for security in any future peace agreement, and the necessity of Palestinian recognition of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people. Oren implied that the American government also understands Israel’s position on the “right of return” regarding so-called Palestinian refugees. He said the two administrations have further discussed Israel’s demand for an end to all Palestinian claims and an end of the conflict should a final peace deal emerge. “Once we sign the peace agreement that will be it,” Oren declared. He added, “We are in close consultation and coordination with the Obama Administration about this, with a goal of arriving at a common document which can be presented to the Europeans and the Quartet on July 11.”
Both the U.S. and Israel are looking for an international consensus of how they can move forward, hoping that a united position will dissuade the Palestinians from pursuing their current political course. So far, the Palestinians have not budged, but reports indicate that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas may be looking for a way out. He realizes that he may not get the kind of backing he needs from the Americans and Europeans by the fall, and may lose political leverage in future negotiations. He has been repeatedly told that any attempt at unilateral recognition will violate past peace agreements with Israel that have been recognized by the international community. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said there is no alternative to direct negotiations. Obama has said that Palestinian attempts at the UN will not bring them any closer to statehood and will not promote peace in the Middle East region. Countries are beginning to vocalize their opposition to the Palestinian political position, most recently, Romania.
On the conference call with international journalists, Oren re-iterated Israel’s political position that the government is thoroughly committed to direct negotiations with the Palestinians leading swiftly to an agreement out of which will emerge a durable two-state solution. It will include a homeland for the Palestinian people; and, a homeland for Israel, the nation state of the Jewish people. Oren further claimed that Israel is dedicated to achieving this goal as swiftly as possible.
At the conclusion of his conference call, Oren re-stated the importance of the historical alliance between Israel and America in terms of a commitment to the security of the Jewish State. He also pointed out how the U.S. has come to Israel’s defense in international forums. He then acknowledged that the Obama Administration is opposed to all attempts by radical activists to try and break Israel’s blockade of Gaza through the development of new flotillas of ships. Oren spoke clearly of the vital alliance between the U.S. and Israel.
Yet, what Oren did not address is the continued demands by Obama and his administration for Israel to withdraw to the pre-1967 lines, which Israel considers non-defensible borders. Nor, did Oren highlight Western pressure on Israel to meet U.S. demands without the resolve of other important critical issues such as the final status of Jerusalem. The Palestinian goal has always been a peace deal based on the 1949 armistice lines; including the return of millions of Palestinians to Israel; a divided Jerusalem; and the demand that Israel forego any military presence on the eastern border with Jordan. These are continued issues of great disagreement between the Palestinians and Israel.
Meanwhile, Israel’s Foreign Ministry staff continues to try and downplay Israel’s disagreements with the United States over some of these major issues, opting instead to show a united front against the current Palestinian position to internationalize the peace process. But, behind the scenes, the pressure on Israel has increased, and Jewish Americans sense this. Recent polls suggest that Obama’s popularity among American Jews is at its lowest point this year. Furthermore, the financial support that Obama received from Jews in the last U.S. election is not guaranteed to be at the same high level during the 2012 election.
Recently, Obama supporters decided to engage in a public relations campaign to bring Jewish voters back into the fold. This will include ads explaining the unprecedented military cooperation between Israel and America and Obama’s strong commitment to Israel’s security. There is also expected to be op-ed pieces in the print media in an attempt to reveal past presidential decisions which did not receive enough media attention.
No matter what the Obama campaign staff attempts to do to emphasize the American president’s compassion towards the state of Israel, there will be the continued nagging question of how committed he really is. Is Israel a true ally for this current American administration or a problem? That’s what Israeli and American Jews are already wondering.
What will not likely be included in Obama’s new public relations effort is just how committed he is to supporting Israel’s sovereignty over the ancestral land of the Jewish people. That detail omitted from the new PR campaign is something Jewish voters should seriously consider. This is especially true for those who are looking forward to celebrating the Passover Seder in 2012, and who plan to express these words of their ancient forefathers committed to a homeland of their own: “Next year in Jerusalem?”
“The Lord also will roar from Zion. And, utter His voice from Jerusalem; the heavens and earth will shake; But, the Lord will be a shelter for His people, and the strength of the children of Israel.” Joel 3:16
Ms. Haves is a news analyst, reporting on political, diplomatic, military and spiritual issues in Israel and the nations.
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