Obama’s brave peace bidAmid the turbulent winds of change in Tunisia and Egypt, U.S. President Barack Obama announced his new Middle East peace initiative. In his 45-minute address, he supported the Arab people’s aspiration for freedom, human dignity and a better life, promising economic support for countries on the road to democracy in what amounts to a Marshall Plan for the Mideast.
Particularly noteworthy is Obama’s vision on Middle East peace. He suggested that the border between Israel and Palestine should be based on that before the 1967 war. As a result of its victory in the war, Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, strengthening its control over the area through government-led settlements.
Obama gave support to the stance of the Palestinians, which was seen a reversal for Israel, which is already fuming over the sudden change of its old ally’s foreign policies.
Obama’s new Mideast policy is a dangerous bet on his political future because he can’t dismiss the powerful pro-Israeli lobby in U.S. politics as he prepares to run for re-election next year. Yet he seems to have opted for the dangerous choice judging that Mideast peace is unattainable unless there is a grand bargain based on the principle of “land for security,” which he seems to believe would be more beneficial to the interests of Israel.
After the collapse of the Hosni Mubarak regime in Egypt, Egyptians are increasingly criticizing their peace treaty with Israel, which creates an ironic situation in that the democratization of Egypt could end up threatening Israel’s security.
The political situations in neighboring Syria and Jordan are also becoming more uncertain and Palestine is attempting to gain UN recognition as a sovereign state. Against this backdrop, Israel probably needs to make a rational decision.
Israel has long sought to enlarge its territory by expanding its settlements in occupied areas almost to the point of no return. We believe Israel can strike a deal with Palestinians on the border question by providing them with land that would be equivalent to the amount it seized in the 1967 war in return for their recognition of some settlements as Israeli territory. Only mutual concession and compromise will help promote peace.
We compliment Obama’s courage to accomplish a genuine peace despite the apparent damage to his political future. We urge Israelis to take a positive look at his proposal and ask Palestinians to help by giving up terrorism and granting recognition to Israel as a state.