Abbas says Obama needs to impose a Middle East solution

In a speech to the Fatah leadership, Mahmoud Abbas pointed out the contradiction inherent in the posture that President Obama has assumed. On the one hand Washington has been pushing the line that a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict represents a vital American interest, yet at the same time Obama says, “we can’t want it more than they do.”

Unless Obama believes that in this particular arena he lacks the ability to defend American interests, he needs to advance or withdraw from his position — a position which is unsustainable.

What is Obama actually doing? He is, as far as I can see, employing a range of tactics yet has no strategy. As a result, every move he makes lacks credibility.

The Independent reports:

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas made a blunt appeal to the US at the weekend, asking US President Barack Obama to “impose” a solution to the Middle East conflict. The call comes amid deepening frustration at Israel’s refusal to suspend the construction of Jewish homes in Arab-dominated East Jerusalem.

The plea, made several times in private but uttered in public for the first time, came as US envoy George Mitchell wrapped up a three-day visit to Jerusalem without any breakthrough on starting the proximity talks. “Since you, Mr President and you, the members of the American administration, believe in this [Palestinian statehood], it is your duty to call for the steps in order to reach the solution and impose the solution – impose it,” Mr Abbas said in a speech to leaders of his Fatah party.

“But don’t tell me it’s a vital national strategic American interest … and then not do anything,” he added.

Richard Haass, in the Wall Street Journal, argues that an initiative to impose peace at this time is doomed to failure but that even if the conflict could be resolved, the national security rewards for the United States would be limited.

The danger of exaggerating the benefits of solving the Palestinian conflict is that doing so runs the risk of distorting American foreign policy. It accords the issue more prominence than it deserves, produces impatience, and tempts the U.S. government to adopt policies that are overly ambitious.

This is not an argument for ignoring the Palestinian issue. As is so often the case, neglect will likely prove malign. But those urging President Obama to announce a peace plan are doing him and the cause of peace no favor. Announcing a comprehensive plan now—one that is all but certain to fail—risks discrediting good ideas, breeding frustration in the Arab world, and diluting America’s reputation for getting things done.

As Edgar noted in “King Lear,” “Ripeness is all.” And the situation in the Middle East is anything but ripe for ambitious diplomacy. What is missing are not ideas—the outlines of peace are well-known—but the will and ability to compromise.

Haass’ argument, as one would expect, is that of an avowed foreign policy realist and it exposes a weakness inherent in every angle from which every US government has approached the conflict: they have studiously avoided acknowledging that injustice lies at the heart of the conflict. Instead of pursuing justice, they frame the issue as being one of balancing interests.

In the latest effort to skirt around the issue of justice we have been told that the conflict needs to be resolved because it is in America’s national interests and that the perpetuation of the conflict is endangering the lives of American soldiers in the region. In this narrative, the Palestinians — as has happened so many times before — somehow become marginal. Enlisting their support is reduced to an exercise in recruiting a few good sports — obliging fellows like Salam Fayyad, who will be good enough to assist the US and Israel in accomplishing their aims.

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3 thoughts on “Abbas says Obama needs to impose a Middle East solution

  1. kagiso

    So the country that took on the Nazi and Japanese empires simultaneously and won, the country that destroyed communism, can’t solve the middle east peace process.

    How hard exactly would it be for the US to propose a solution to the UN based on the Geneva Accords, with compulsory referenda on the solution for the Palestinians, Jordanians, Egyptians, Lebanese, Syrians and Israelis (preferably in that order).

    Such a resolution would be passed unanimously by the Security Council, and would be opposed only by the Israelis in the full body of the UN.

    And supposing the Israelis did oppose the motion, would the IDF really open fire on blue-helmeted GI’s as they crossed the Jordan?

    There is a school of thought after all that this is exactly what the UN was set up for in the first place.

  2. pabelmont

    The USA may well, someday, impose a solution. But before taking such a high-handed, unfair, likely-to-get-it-wrong, sure-to-be-controversial, STEP, the USA should try one PRELIMINARY which is lawful, fair,sure-to-be-right, and uncontroversial (except for the AIPAC crowd).

    The PRELIMINARY is to enforce international law by requiring Israel to remove its wall and to remove its settlers from all occupied territories. this should have been done long ago, but there is no time like the present to re-invigorate the rule of law and require Israel to do what the law, the Security Council resolutions (esp. 465) , and the International Court of Justice (July 9. 2004) all require.

    This step will show Israel who is boss BUT WITHOUT asking Israel to do anything that the law does not already require. It might (just might) also advance the prospects of peace by inducing Israel to negotiate soon and earnestly in the hope of being allowed to leave some settlers (and settlements) in place. See here and here

  3. Ian Arbuckle

    “As Edgar noted in “King Lear,” “Ripeness is all.” And the situation in the Middle East is anything but ripe”

    No, in fact it is putrid. When has it been more or less ripe? Israel is no blushing bride to peace. No time will be riper! In fact it is completely obvious that successive Zionist governments have used every prevarication to grab more land, stimulate more wars, and just about find any reason not to make a permanent settlement.

    I could not agree more than step one by Pabelmont above, and step two by Kagiso above. I have no doubt that Israel will never accept any definitive solution that includes a meaningful Palestinian state beyond a West Bank Bantustan, a Gaza Bantustan and a de-Palesinized East Jerusalem, and that would be temporary until another war is inflicted.

    Israel will not react to carrot or stick, Only the whip!

    If I was a Palestinian I would not ask Obama lightly for an imposed solution. It may well be a solution much closer to Bibi’s ideas than one which could justly satisfy the needs of the long suffering Palestinian people and without a solution deemed fair to the Palestinians, meaning right of return, withdrawal from occupied territories (67 borders), etc. an imposed solution would fail. The post Hamas vote has shown quite clearly that the US has little interest in the “will” of the Palestinian people. There insistence on beating dead horses like considering Abbas as the representative of the Palestinian people just emphasises that point. They need a Palestinian administration that would compromise the Palestinian people. That is what they need. Unfortunately that also is just another flawed solution which will lead to further conflict.

    Until Obama’s administration can give as much consideration and weight to the “interests” of the Palestinian people as they do to the Zionists, they cannot consider themselves qualified to broker or pretend to lead any “peace process”.

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