Time for peace in Middle East, finally

Last week President Obama gave a major address on the Middle East, laying out some of the parameters necessary for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

Last week President Obama gave a major address on the Middle East, laying out some of the parameters necessary for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

Obama told the Palestinians that they must accept Israel’s right to exist. He told the Israelis that any future Palestinian state must be based on borders prior to the 1967 war in which Israel occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. The president added that 1967 borders should be accompanied by land swaps agreed to by both sides, which could accommodate existing Jewish settlements.

Obama said Israel can never live in true peace as a Jewish state if it insists on “permanent occupation.”

The president’s proposal was flatly rejected by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and sharply criticized by several Republican presidential hopefuls.

However the president’s vision for Israeli-Palestinian peace was strongly supported by many in the international community including the other members of the Quartet of Middle East peace negotiators: Russia, the European Union and the United Nations.

“The Quartet agrees that moving forward on the basis of territory and security provides a foundation for Israelis and Palestinians to reach a final resolution of the conflict through serious and substantive negotiations and mutual agreement on all core issues,” the group said in a statement.

Despite the overheated criticism by some to Obama’s Middle East speech and the attempt to portray his proposal as new and controversial, the president’s stance on the 1967 border was not a major policy change, since the U.S., along with the international community had previously agreed to building on 1967 borderlines.

Obama’s speech was in part his frustration to the stalemate in negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians and in response to the Palestinian’s pursuit of unilateral statehood through the United Nations.

U.S.-moderated peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians collapsed last year after the Palestinian Authority pulled out of negotiation in reaction to Israel’s refusal to extend a moratorium on building more Jewish settlements on disputed land.

There is growing international pressure for a peace agreement. The pressure grows stronger with the spreading push for democracy in the Middle East and North Africa.

The status quo in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is becoming increasingly unacceptable.

Originally published in the Philadelphia Tribune

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