Obama’s love bombing trip to Israel was heavy on flattery and light on substance, but by the end of it Israel had been pressured into surrendering to Islamist Turkey and Hamas had gotten improved access to Israel. It was the first “accomplishment” of Obama’s trip. But not the last.
Obama had long been an admirer of the Saudi peace plan. Obama had told Abbas during his first term that Israel would be crazy not to accept it. He’s talked it up now and again… and Kerry is reportedly pushing the plan now.
Israeli and Palestinian officials confirmed to McClatchy that President Barack Obama raised the possibility of using the Arab Peace Initiative, as the plan was known, as a framework for an agreement when he was in the region last month.
“It was raised directly by Obama during his visit and during his closed-door discussion with the Palestinian leadership,” said a senior Palestinian official directly involved in the talks. “It was made clear to the Palestinian leadership that this would be the new direction of U.S. diplomacy in the region.”
The official said that White House officials laid the groundwork for the renewal of the Arab peace initiative two weeks before Obama’s visit to Israel and the West Bank when they spoke with Palestinian negotiators in Washington.
“They were told then that this would be the focus and that it had great potential,” said the Palestinian official, who asked not to be further identified because of the sensitivity of the talks. He said Obama, Kerry, Abbas and Palestinian negotiators Mohammed Shtayeh and Saeb Erekat discussed the topic for several hours during the president’s visit to Ramallah, where the Palestinian Authority has its headquarters.
The trouble with the Saudi Peace Plan is that it’s more like a suicide plan involving Israel going back to indefensible 1948 borders, dividing up Jerusalem and accepting millions of Muslim “refugees”. In exchange the Arab nations, though obviously not Iran or Syria, would consider the conflict over and open diplomatic and commercial relations with Israel.
The Kerry version would no doubt drop the refugees part, but the rest of it would remain largely intact with possibly some small territorial modifications.
The problems are obvious and many
1. The 1948 borders were and are indefensible. Especially against a modern army. A nine mile wide country that can easily be cut in half is always going to be a tempting target. And that target will trump any peace agreements.
2. The idea of signing a peace agreement with all the Arab states sounded better ten years ago when it seemed as if they might actually stick around. The Arab Spring showed how fragile governments and agreements are. Hillary has kept talking about how Israel needs to make peace with peoples, not just governments, and now Obama Inc. is proposing a plan put forward by a totalitarian state that might be overthrown tomorrow. And has Kerry even gotten the various new Islamist governments on board with this?
3. Any peace plan not approved of by Hamas is meaningless because Hamas is the closest thing to a legal government and it is also the popularly supported government. And Hamas, like Hezbollah, has shot down the Saudi Peace Plan. A peace agreement signed with a Palestinian leader who refuses to hold an election is worthless because he does not represent his people.
4. The Saudi Peace Plan calls for returning the Golan Heights to Syria. Syria is unlikely to be on board with the peace plan now and even if it were, its government might not last for very long. The border with Israel is now partly in the hands of Al Qaeda.
5. No interim agreement has resulted in a continued condition of peace throughout the more than two decades of the peace process. What reason is there for believing that a final agreement will be anything but a large scale repetition of the same process?