Pressure on President Obama to recast the failed American approach to Israel-Palestine is building from former senior officials whose counsel he respects.
Following up on a letter dated Nov. 6, 2008, that was handed to Obama late last year by Paul Volcker, now a senior economic adviser to the president, these foreign policy mandarins have concluded a “Bipartisan Statement on U.S. Middle East Peacemaking” [PDF] that should become an essential template.
Deploring “seven years of absenteeism” under the Bush administration, they call for intense American mediation in pursuit of a two-state solution, “a more pragmatic approach toward Hamas,” and eventual U.S. leadership of a multinational force to police transitional security between Israel and Palestine. [continued…]
Emphasizing diplomacy and engagement over isolation and confrontation, President Obama has spoken eloquently of a new era of American leadership. Of the changes he has promised, the most important to Palestinians is his commitment to reinvigorating the Middle East peace process.
Resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict remains crucial to achieving stability and peace in the Middle East as well as to advancing vital U.S. interests. The Obama administration clearly understands this, prioritizing the peace process as part of a more integrated approach to U.S. policy in the region. America’s renewed commitment to brokering a just and lasting peace between Palestinians and Israelis offers a measure of hope to Palestinians living under the weight of occupation. But it also comes at a time when Israel’s own commitment to peace is in doubt after the formation of a right-wing coalition government.
Peace is not a word that sits comfortably with the Israeli right, which will dominate Israel’s new government, even with Labor’s decision this week to join it. Among its ranks are those who have long opposed peace with Palestinians, no matter the cost; who use the cover of religion to advocate extremist views; and who have supported the expulsion of Palestinians or now devise loyalty tests designed to achieve the same result. [continued…]
For many years, the United States has had a policy against spending aid money to fund Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which successive administrations have regarded as an obstacle to peace. Yet private organizations in the United States continue to raise tax-exempt contributions for the very activities that the government opposes.
There’s nothing illegal about the charitable contributions to pro-settlement organizations, which are documented in filings with the Internal Revenue Service. They’re similar to tax-exempt donations made to thousands of foreign organizations around the world through groups that are often described as “American friends of” the recipient.
But critics of Israeli settlements question why American taxpayers are supporting indirectly, through the exempt contributions, a process that the government condemns. A search of IRS records identified 28 U.S. charitable groups that made a total of $33.4 million in tax-exempt contributions to settlements and related organizations between 2004 and 2007. [continued…]