Israel-Palestine: Is Peace Possible On Obama’s Watch?


The answer to my headline question could be, not necessarily would be, “Yes” IF President Obama was prepared to put America’s own best interests first and use as necessary all the leverage he has to oblige Israel to accept that peace with the Palestinians requires a complete end to its occupation of the West Bank. With East Jerusalem the capital of a Palestinian state or, preferably, Jerusalem an undivided, open city and the capital of two states, Israel back to its 1967 pre-war frontiers subject only to minor and mutually agreed border modifications is an Israel the Palestinians could and would make peace with. But…

It is important to acknowledge the difference between what could be and what would be even if Obama was willing to read the Riot Act to Israel’s leaders and back his words with actions including sanctions as necessary. In a White House push and Zionist shove game it could not be taken for granted that Israel’s leaders would respond to real pressure by saying, “Okay, Mr. President, we’ll do what you ask.” There is at least the possibility that they would tell the president to go to hell and threaten to do serious damage to America’s interests if he did not back off.

I imagine Obama is aware of what happened when President Carter and his Secretary of State Cyrus Vance worked with the Soviet Union to produce a joint US-Soviet Declaration for advancing the peace process. All Arab governments and the PLO accepted the declaration as the way forward to peace. Only Israel rejected it. Prime Minister Begin went up the proverbial wall and sent his foreign minister, Moshe Dayan, to the White House. At a point in his conversation with Carter, Dayan said: “Mr. President, you must understand that my prime minister is mad. He is quite capable of bombing the oil fields if you proceed with this initiative and push him too far.” When Dayan left the White House, the joint US-Soviet Declaration had been replaced with a new memorandum of understanding between the U.S. and Israel.

While I believe it would be wrong to dismiss the possibility of an Israeli leadership telling Obama to go to hell, I don’t think it would actually come to that in the event of him reading the Riot Act to them and backing his words with actions as necessary. And here’s why. The thing most Israeli Jews care most about is the relationship with America. If they believed it was being put at real risk by their government, I think a majority of them would say to it: “Enough is enough. End the occupation for peace.”

Now to the attempt by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to raise the corpse of what used to be called the peace process from the dead. His marathon performance to date suggests two things.

The first is that the Obama administration is not in the process of pressing Israel’s leaders for a complete end to occupation because trying to make it happen would require an all-out confrontation with Netanyahu (not to mention Israel’s neo-fascists to the right of him) and the Zionist lobby including and especially its stooges in Congress; a confrontation Obama and Kerry probably believe they could not win.

The second is that Kerry seems to be going for what down the road he might describe as the “maximum possible” Israeli withdrawal.

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