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Light Flickers on Peace….

August 30, 2009 Leave a comment

In June it seemed that Israeli prime minister Benyamin Netanyahu had extinguished all hopes for even the pretense of peace. His acceptance of a two-state solution at Bar Ilan University mollified many in the West, but infuriated Palestinian leaders. Netanyahu advocated a state whose military and even political powers would be restrained relative to those of Israel. More than that, Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas’s Khaled Mashaal demanded a cessation to the settlements in the West Bank–a key issue on which Netanyahu remained silent.

Earlier this month, however, Netanyahu agreed to a partial halt of settlement activity. The move is not a formal moratorium however. According to the AP, Israel has not issued settlement permits in months, and will halt activity until peace talks can proceed.

Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, who has been working to reconcile the Palestinian factions, is not moved by the temporary solution. During his first visit in 5 years to the Oval Office, Mubarak commented,

“This issue has been going on 60 years, and we cannot afford wasting more time because violence will increase,” the 81-year-old Mubarak said, speaking through an interpreter. “We need to move to the final status solution. … The Israelis said talk about a temporary solution. I told them, ‘No, forget about the temporary solution, forget about temporary borders.’ That’s why I came today to talk to President Obama to move forward on this issue.”

Worsening the situation is Israel’s ever more icy relationship with the Obama administration. Israeli-US relations in 2009 have been characterized by harsh words and, to some degree, paranoia. President Obama has taken the hardest-line stance with Israel than any other president to date. The Administration has veered from Israel’s positions on how to deal with the conflict and also on a nuclear Iran, and in doing so,  the Administration has lost favor among the Israeli right. Even his chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel is losing clout with Israeli political actors.

Politico reports,

An observant Jew with deep ties to Israel, Emanuel is viewed as something of a native son, his rise through the ranks of American politics celebrated by Israelis who reveled in details such as his childhood summers spent in Israel and his volunteer stint during the first Gulf War in an Israeli military program for civilians.

… But in a dramatic emotional shift, Israelis have become increasingly disenchanted with Emanuel, and the disappointment is especially intense on the Israeli right, which supports Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his opposition to Obama’s call for ceasing settlement activity.

As Obama’s most senior Jewish proxy, Emmanuel faces the impact of Israel’s “widespread unhappiness” with the Administration. Both Emmanuel and senior adviser David Axelrod have been called “self-hating Jews” by the Israeli Prime Minister, Haaretz reports. Although Netanyahu’s spokespeople have denied the allegation, the sentiment is widely publicized and shared  in Israel.

While the temporary halt on settlements buys time for all nations involved, a Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Conference may further upset this nebulous state of affairs. President Obama hopes to convene a meeting of heads of state on September 24th to discuss nuclear terrorism and global disarmament, and Israel’s alleged nuclear power program may end up on trail or a target of suspicion and accusation.

Obama also has another summit planned for March 9 and 10, which will stir up animosity among nations. Arab states will undoubtedly use Israel’s alleged nuclear program to counter Obama’s plans for a nuclear-free Middle East, and the Jewish state will crop up national security issues as a reason to remain laconic and mulish on the issue.

Despite the laundry list of conflicts and entanglements, Obama is optimistic about the future of the peace talks and is not worried about lost ground.

— Tina Carter, Trinity ’10
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