George S. Hishmeh
The Jordan Times
November 26, 2010 - 1:00am

The longer the standstill in the peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority the further both are from a fair settlement and the more complex the terms will be in the future, especially now that Israel manages to up the ante almost daily.

In the meantime, a war of words has emerged, among former US officials, some known to be sympathetic to Israel, and well-known commentators who regularly echo the Zionist position.

Absent from this melee are pro-Palestinian analysts or advocates, a deplorable situation that exposes the deplorable position of the US administration, Obama’s and all others preceding it, which failed to be evenhanded.

As was noted in a recent Washington Post news report, “in return for Israel accepting a [proposed] 90-day settlement freeze, the Obama team agreed to veto anti-Israel resolutions at the United Nations and to sell $3 billion worth of fighter jets - essentially, a payment of $33.3 million for each day of the freeze”.

More alarmingly, the US has reportedly “agreed never again to ask (Israel) for a settlement freeze (and) to exempt the area surrounding Jerusalem from the freeze”, which is the east sector of the Holy City, potentially the capital of Palestine.

James L. Jones, the former national security adviser of President Barack Obama acknowledged in an appearance at the Aspen Institute that the need for Washington to be more aggressive to promote a Mideast peace “has been advocated certainly, by some of the leaders in the Arab world, and the Europeans, and it’s certainly something that the administration at some point might have to consider”. He did not suggest a deadline but stressed: “Whatever it is, we have to find a solution to this; failure is not an op?ion here.”

The failure of the Obama administration to be forceful has allowed, by many accounts, the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to avoid taking any positive steps. Topping his latest list of negative manoeuvres has been the approval by Israel’s right-leaning Knesset of a historic legislation that requires than any peace deal that would compel Israel to cede any annexed Palestinian territory, particularly Arab East Jerusalem or the Syrian Golan Heights, be subjected to a national referendum.

Tzipi Livni, leader of the opposition Kadima Party, said that Netanyahu opted for this manoeuvre because he is “a weak prime minister” who was comfortable with passing on responsibility. But the other logical view, coming on the heels of the proposed “loyalty oath”, to be taken henceforth by would-be Israeli citizens, recognising Israel as “a Jewish and democratic state”, is that the approved referendum would kill the two-state solution since it requires a super-majority of the 120-member Knesset. Only 65 ?embers approved the referendum vote.

The State Department declined to comment on the referendum decision, with a spokesman saying this is an “internal Israeli issue”. But a former US ambassador to Israel, Daniel Kurtzer, published an op-ed column decrying the Obama administration’s decision to offer Israel what has been described as “a gold-plated menu of incentives”, including advanced warplanes, as a reward for its “bad behaviour”. Kurtzer, who now teaches Middle East politics at Princeton University, believes that “Washington will almost c?rtainly come to regret bribing Israel, Israel may regret receiving such a bribe even more”.

The former ambassador wondered sarcastically in his Washington Post column: “Will the rewards for Israel be automatically renewable? Meaning, if Israel is willing to continue the settlement freeze after three months, will another set of rewards be the price for that?”

Another op-ed written by former ambassador to Israel, Samuel W. Lewis, and two others called on the US to address the endgame in this conflict.

“An American statement of principles would mobilise regional support,” they said in The New York Times, adding: “It would provide for the first time, a public framework for engaging sponsors of the Arab Peace Initiative.”

In other words, they continued, “at a minimum, the American declaration should be based on the 1967 lines, with agreed territorial swaps; support a compromise on Jerusalem that allows for two capitals for two states; include provisions about security limitations and guarantees; reiterate America’s support for an agreed solution to the refugee problem; and reaffirm our long-standing commitment to the state of Israel”.

All this should come in a presidential speech, they suggested. Well and good, but if not, the next step for the Palestinians will be to drop all the negotiations and go to the Untied Nations.

After all, it was the UN General Assembly that divided Palestine into two countries in 1947, and after 63 years, it is high time for this world body to accept a state of Palestine as a full-fledged member, as it did when it accepted Israel, which does not yet have identified borders.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017