Pages: 1 2
This article is reprinted from City Journal.
Palestinians on the West Bank were summoned by their government to attend a “Day of Rage” demonstration last Sunday. What were the demonstrators so angry about? Curiously, the Day of Rage wasn’t directed against the tyrannical regimes currently brutalizing Muslim and Arab protesters in a half dozen Middle East countries. Nor did the Palestinian demonstrators express rage over the fact that they don’t yet have an independent state of their own. Rather, it seems that Palestinian leaders are angry because the Obama administration dared to vote against a United Nations Security Council resolution declaring that Israel’s settlements on the West Bank are “illegal.” U.S. leaders “are liars who pretend to support democracy and peace,” said Al Fatah official and former Palestinian intelligence chief Tawfik Tirawi, in calling for the demonstration.
Here in a nutshell is everything that is wrong with the Obama administration’s approach to the Israel-Palestine conflict and the so-called “peace process.” When Obama arrived in office in January 2009, he was aware that just four months earlier Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert had offered Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas an independent state on a silver platter. With land swaps from Israel, the Palestinians would have received the equivalent of all the territory the Arabs controlled before the 1967 war, and they could have built their capital in East Jerusalem. Only one significant concession was demanded of President Abbas in return—a declaration that the Palestinians were giving up the “right of return” to Israel for the refugees from the 1948 war and their millions of descendants. But Abbas rejected Olmert’s generous proposal without the courtesy of an explanation or even a counteroffer—just as Abbas’s predecessor, Yasser Arafat, walked away from a similar deal proffered by President Clinton at Camp David at the end of 2000.
I suppose it represents some degree of progress that—unlike Arafat in 2000—Abbas didn’t respond to the 2008 Israeli peace offer by launching a violent intifada against Israel’s civilian population. Instead he went on the political offensive, trying to shift the conversation from the Palestinian refusal to compromise on the “right of return” to the alleged “threat to peace” of continued Israeli construction activity inside the existing West Bank settlements. Abbas’s diplomacy found a willing partner in the new American president, who was already offering apologies to the Arab world for America’s purported sins in an effort to prove that he was no George W. Bush. Obama then pressured the new Israeli government, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, to accept a one-year moratorium on all new settlement construction—even forbidding the addition of a single bedroom to existing family homes. This unilateral Israeli concession would supposedly entice Abbas to resume the direct negotiations that he had abruptly broken off in September 2008. But Obama’s gambit didn’t work. Abbas didn’t return to the bargaining table until there was just one month left on the construction moratorium. As time ran out, the negotiations were aborted once again.
Pages: 1 2