US President Barack Obama's special envoy, former Sen. George Mitchell is in the Middle East to get the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks back on track.
Many in the international community believe that a peaceful and just solution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is overdue and necessary. Not only for the sake of the local inhabitants, both Israelis and Palestinians but for the whole world since it will substantially reduce the level of terrorism. A settlement crucial in the battle against extremists to whom the violent, intractable dispute is a potent recruiting tool.
The issue of peace in the Middle East, more than any other, has bred generational hatred of America and the West among Arabs and Muslims.
For the Palestinians, there are few issues as contentious as the building of Jewish settlements. The recent decision by the Israeli government to allow fresh settlements will undermine the US effort to revive the peace negotiations. Some 500,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. The rest of the world recognizes that these settlements are illegal under international law.
As Obama took office in January, we were all conscious of how low the United States had sunk in the esteem of the rest of the world, even our closest allies. The overseas burdens he inherited from the George W. Bush years were not his worst problem, given the economic collapse, but his election had done something, of itself, to restore the world image of our country.
He had promised that he would seriously address the Middle East conflict from Day One. This was touchstone for his foreign policy, in fact a condition for his being able to deal with the situation in Iraq. Now it comes to a testing of his resolve.
Israel agreed to freeze settlement activity as part of the 2003 international peace plan known as the road map. Obama's call for a freeze on settlements has been met with outright defiance from the Netanyahu government which is so much indebted to the extremists of the settlement movement that it would fall if Netanyahu made more than a passing and insubstantial nod to Obama's demand. Would that be good for Israel or bad? And if Netanyahu and his partner, the Meir Kahane clone Avigdor Lieberman, were allowed to determine American policy, would that be good for the United States, or a disaster?
Reports in the Israeli press claim that agreement was reached, when George Mitchell met Netanyahu in London, that the United States would give no approval to the extensive new confiscations, settlement building and demolition of Palestinian homes in Jerusalem, but would do nothing more about it than to regret it; that a token freeze on West Bank settlements would last nine months (a compromise between Obama's full year and Netanyahu's six months), but would permit 2,500 houses already begun to be completed, plus allow for "normal living," by which was meant building new schools, kindergartens and public buildings; and that any renewal of this seeming freeze after the nine months would depend on the Palestinians meeting conditions which were too insulting even to contemplate.
.... abject surrender on the part of the Obama administration.
We see no reports confirming (or denying!) such an agreement in the American press or media, but when Netanyahu's government announced the licensing of an additional 450 houses, many of them in the most sensitive areas, like Modi'in Illit, which encroaches on the Palestinian villages of Bil'in and Ni'lin even in defiance of the Israeli Supreme Court itself, we still heard only "regret" from Washington. It all sounds like abject surrender on the part of the Obama administration. Netanyahu and Lieberman can do as they please. How will this, if it truly represents American policy, affect the standing of the United States in the world? It will be taken, by Western allies (Israel among them) and its enemies - in Afghanistan among other places - either as terminal weakness or as hypocrisy, and we need to wonder which of those perceptions is worse for US and its allies.
Obama is presently fighting what the analysts believe to be his toughest battle, the health-care issue. Much of the administration's energy is mobilized in getting the House to pass, preferably, a bipartisan bill. This will not only enhance his chance for a second term but in the congressional elections it will help maintain a Democratic majority. The question that is being asked is whether President Obama, after this battle, will have enough left in him to stick to his guns.
What would be the result if US did persist in the freeze demand and the Israeli government fell, either because Netanyahu conformed or because he defied the United States to the point of alienating his most essential ally?
The Israeli public is quite capable of determining that.
Their good sense must not be underestimated. When Israelis have seen some prospect of genuine peace with the Palestinians they have on number of occasions responded positively to it, and dismissed governments that were an obstacle to it. They know, better than many Americans, that the present course of Israeli policy is ultimately suicidal to their state. Note the response they gave to Anwar Sadat, or to the Oslo Accords, their vote for Yitzhak Rabin when they saw that Yitzhak Shamir was merely temporizing with the Madrid conference, and their vote, after their earlier three years of Netanyahu, for Ehud Barak, who turned out to be such a disappointment.
They will be grateful if the United States creates the circumstances that truly enable them to create the peace they seek.
This has its further reflection in the American Jewish community, where more and more people are realizing fully that Israel is on a collision course with the rest of the world. Their concern for Israel makes them stronger advocates of peace with Israel's neighbors. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and its Likud-oriented allies have to realize that for all their hold on the Congress, they speak less and less for American Jewish opinion.
Learning from past mistakes, the US these days is reluctant to interfere in another country's electoral process, but standing to principle cannot be confused with such interference. The Netanyahu government is there only out of disillusionment, because of the foolish indulgence of the Bush administration in the worst excesses of Israeli militarism, under Ehud Olmert as much as under Ariel Sharon (the mentor of Netanyahu's previous attempt at government).
Obama promised to be serious about bringing genuine peace to the Middle East, for the sake of Israel, a valued ally, as well as for the Palestinians and other Arabs, who know just as well their need for peace. Any chance for the Palestinians to escape a world of walled cantons, checkpoints, ethnically segregated roads, dispossession and humiliation and for Israel to remain safe and secure as a functioning democracy will be lost if the Obama administration does not put its full weight behind its demand to halt the settlement activity completely.
Words are not enough; there must be some consequences that Israel must face for its intransigence on this issue.
Fr. Raymond G. Helmick, S.J. is instructor in conflict resolution, Department of Theology, Boston College and author of "Negotiating Outside the Law: Why Camp David Failed" (London, Pluto Press 2004). Dr. Nazir Khaja is chairman of Islamic Information Service, Los Angeles.
I fully expect iViews to censor this, as the truth is rarely seen in these comments.
Gilead is mine; Manasseh is mine; Ephraim also is the strength of mine head; Judah is my lawgiver;
Moab is my washpot; over Edom will I cast out my shoe; over Philistia will I triumph.
Who will bring me into the strong city? who will lead me into Edom?
Wilt not thou, O God, who hast cast us off? and wilt not thou, O God, go forth with our hosts?
Give us help from trouble: for vain is the help of man (under the leadership of International community).
Through God we shall do valiantly: for he it is that shall tread down our enemies. Ps 108:7-13
In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians shall serve with the Assyrians.
In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land:
Whom the LORD of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance. Isa 19:23-25
Or just prove that God has changed since recently and go ahead with your proposal of throwing rockets into Israel... to build your Palestine in Israel.
Foolish threats of waging Biblical Christian war against Arabs/Muslims/Islam will not solve the problems of Israeli and Palestinian people. These kind of comments are based on ignorance and bigotry.
But the purpose of God should not fail to establish Zion, to cast shoe in Philistine, to adopt the people of Syria and Egypt and to establish the claims of inheritance over Israel. Israel cannot give away land from within the bound of the river of Egypt and the River Euphrates (it is such a small patch of land even from south to north, almost a day's walking distance from west to east and does not merit size for division...). It is not ambitious. For peace, get rid of its hindrance by getting rid of the problem maker! The eyes of the World are on Israel to derive wisdom and adopt principles of peace.... There is no peace in the victory of the enemy in surrendering or giving away land! Both contain the flaws...
Come, King of Jews and take Reigns from Zion, over the planet... we are waiting for Your arrival for salvation from the seize of our adversary...