The Daily Star (Editorial)
September 22, 2011 - 12:00am

U.S. President Barack Obama couldn’t have said it any better when he told the United Nations General Assembly that there was “no shortcut” to peace in the Middle East.

Obama was responding to the drive by the Palestinians to secure official U.N. recognition for their independent state. The U.S. president probably thought he was being statesmanlike and realistic by solemnly declaring that “statements and resolutions” at the U.N. will not bring such a state into existence.

Obama is resoundingly and definitively correct when he says there is no short-cut to a durable peace.

He and his administration must convince the Israelis to dismantle settlements, which are illegal on occupied territory under international law. It will be difficult for the White House to convince the Israelis that they must commit to a set of borders; but this is necessary for any state to gain acceptance as the good neighbor of others.

The U.S. administration will have its work cut out for it as it seeks to elicit a change in Israel’s behavior, but as Obama said, there can be no short-cuts.

The American president also told the countries of the world that Israel is surrounded by people who have launched attacks against it.

Again, there can be no short-cuts to erasing the impact of such rhetoric. Obama and his advisers will have to work against the decades-long portrayal of Israel as the eternal victim, when it in fact flouts international law and U.N. resolutions on a daily basis.

But the task isn’t impossible – it’s only in the U.S. and Israel where minds must be changed, since the rest of the world backs the Palestinian point of view.

The White House will require considerable time to inculcate the notion of “national sovereignty” by other peoples in its Israeli ally. It will be difficult, but it’s the only way to arriving at a durable peace between states and peoples – not a set of arrangements between a privileged group and a mass of second-class human beings.

Obama won’t have to do much to bring the Palestinians along, since they have already demonstrated a commitment to negotiations, provided that they are meaningful and not just a waste of more time.

The American president should realize that while he should be worried about his re-election chances next year, there is the matter of this year to contend with. Popular uprisings have broken out in a number of Arab countries, where people have been paying attention to what Washington has said and done.

For the most part, they have been disappointed, and they are certainly going to be disappointed by Obama’s latest stance on the region, a flagrant declaration of bias toward Israel and the kind of “same old” policy that has even less value in a year of dramatic change, the kind of change that Obama himself once promised.


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