Arab News (Editorial)
April 26, 2010 - 12:00am

Since Obama has declared that Middle East peace is a strategic priority for the United States, Abbas now wants Obama to put his money where his mouth is and do something about his priorities.

The standing policy of the US is that while many ideas are floated around, at the end of the day it’s only the Palestinians and Israelis who can make these decisions for themselves. The traditional view is that the US can help, but the final decisions lie with the parties directly involved. The latest example is the US attempt to launch indirect talks, with Obama’s Middle East envoy George Mitchell acting as a go-between.

But with someone like Benjamin Netanyahu at the helm in Israel, it is clear the Palestinians need help — not to mention the US itself. Mitchell has warned that the status quo (of Israeli settlement building in East Jerusalem) is not sustainable. Netanyahu has made it clear that he will not yield to US pressure to completely halt building in East of Jerusalem.

Netanyahu’s visit to Washington last month exposed just how bad current US-Israeli relations are. The Israeli prime minister insists, long and loud, that he wants a peace deal if it guarantees Israeli security. The Americans agree, but not with his insistence that Israel has the right to build whatever and wherever it wants in Jerusalem.

The Obama administration has thus concluded that it will be impossible to negotiate peace while Israel continues to settle its people on occupied land. To extrapolate, Obama seems to see Netanyahu as part of the problem.

That does not necessarily mean America is part of the answer. Abbas’ proposal is a hope and a prayer that America would at worst no longer take a jaundiced attitude toward the Palestinians and at best it would be the Palestinians’ best ally and friend. But by giving the US a blank check to resolve the problem the way it sees fit, Abbas is exonerating the US from all that has gone wrong based on its policies, as well as giving false hopes to those Palestinians who wish America would be on their side instead of on the side of their enemies.

What would be different in US policy in the Middle East should America be given a free hand to decide what to do? The answer in short is: The details and intensity but not the direction, content, or impact of such policies. Even if Palestinians believe only strong US intervention can break the impasse with Israel, there is no guarantee that whatever solution the US imposes will be fair to the Palestinians. The US is opposed in the Arab world as elsewhere because it has pursued and continues to pursue policies that are inimical to the interests of most people in these countries and are only beneficial to its own interests and to that of Israel, notwithstanding the current strain in ties with Netanyahu.

Short of an incredible, unprecedented U-turn, the US will continue its policies in the region that have brought very little to the Palestinians, most importantly their land.


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