Lara Friedman
The New York Times (Opinion)
November 21, 2012 - 1:00am


President Obama should make it clear that a cease-fire won't solve the underlying causes of the conflict, but it will provide the space and stability necessary to deal with them. He must then engage to do just that, starting with addressing Israel’s legitimate security concerns.

Obama must press leaders in Egypt, Turkey, other Arab states and Europe to cooperate to stop the flow of weapons into Gaza and to convince Hamas that threatening Israel is not in its interest. He must ensure the implementation of verifiable arrangements that prevent Hamas from rebuilding its capacity to threaten Israel.

Such efforts will succeed only if legitimate Palestinian grievances with respect to Gaza are also addressed. The most glaring of these are Israel’s continued blockade of civilian goods (many imports and virtually all exports), limitations on freedom of movement into and out of Gaza, and the severing of Gaza from the West Bank. Obama must demonstrate resolute leadership to induce Israel to end these abusive policies.

Obama must use his last four years to achieve a two-state solution.

Obama can also help by spearheading the establishment of an internationally backed oversight and grievance-resolution mechanism, like the Israel-Lebanon Monitoring Group, established following the 1996 Lebanon War. Such a step would require Obama to accept engagement, direct or indirect, with Hamas (something Israel has already started doing, like when it negotiated with Hamas for the release of Gilad Shalit). 

Finally, Obama must hit the “reset” button on peace efforts. Following his decisive re-election, his new global mandate should be to pursue peace in the Middle East. This time he must make it clear that actions that undermine the two-state solution won’t be tolerated and will trigger consequences. Obama must press for and be prepared to deal with a unified Palestinian leadership that can credibly claim to represent all Palestinians. He must demonstrate that just as he is committed to Israel’s defense through the provision of systems like Iron Dome, he is equally committed to Israel's security, which can only be guaranteed through continued negotiations and ultimately, a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

Unless President Obama acts to break the existing Hamas-Israel cycle, a cease-fire will once again only be an intermission between rounds of violence. President Obama’s role is critical because only the U.S. has influence over all the parties, and because security in the Middle East is a vital national security interest for the United States.


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