Friday, April 09, 2010

Mr Obama, the devil's in the details

Two stories appeared this week indicating the President Obama is considering 'imposing' his own settlement on the Israelis and Palestinians: one by David Ignatius in the Washington Post and another in the NYT.

The proposed settlement would, apparently, follow the same old outline now being worked on for close to two decades: no right of return for Palestinian refugees, a divided Jerusalem, a return to close-to-the-1967-borders with some minor border adjustments and territorial swaps, and recognition of Israel by the Arab states.

“It’s not rocket science,” said Robert Malley, director of the Middle East Program at the International Crisis Group, the Brussels-based organization that seeks to prevent and resolve deadly conflicts.

Actually, answers Elliot Abrahams in the Weekly Standard, it is:

First, if indeed everyone has known the terms for nearly 20 years (since Oslo) yet agreement has never been reached, is it not obvious that neither Israelis nor Palestinians are willing and able to accept those terms? Does their embrace by an ambitious American president make them any more palatable to the people who will have to live with them?

Second, the conclusion that all the terms are known is quite wrong. Is the fate of Jerusalem’s Old City agreed? Do Palestinians accept that Israel will keep every major settlement bloc? Do Israelis and Palestinians agree on the terms needed to guarantee Israel’s security once the IDF must leave the West Bank? (Examples: Is it agreed that Israel will control the air space and electromagnetic spectrum? Is it agreed that Israel can keep troops in the West Bank for some years? Do Palestinians accept that Israel can control the Jordan Valley and patrol the border with Jordan?)

This is nonsense. One of Ignatius’s sources says the Obama plan will “take on the absolute requirements of Israeli security.” After 14 months of harassment by Obama and his team, will any Israeli risk his nation’s safety on that assurance?

His blow-by-blow fisking of Ignatius's column is masterly. I suggest you read the whole thing.

One point he left out: when this imposed settlement refers the 'Palestinians', it seems to address solely to the Palestinians on the West Bank. What exactly does the administration propose to do with Hamas in Gaza - who are unlikely to accept any American settlement (or any settlement at all)? It's all very well talking about 'solving the Palestinian-Israeli problem', but as long as there is a hostile regime in Gaza, the conflict goes on.

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