Is There an Urgency to Resolve the 'Palestinian'-Israel Conflict?

President Barak Obama has said the Palestinian-Israeli conflict "is a critical issue to deal with, in part because it is in the United States' interest to achieve peace; that the absence of peace between Palestinians [sic] and Israelis is a impediment to a whole host of other areas of increased cooperation and more stable security for people in the region, as well as the United States."1

It may be argued that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is urgent for the United States if you believe that the conflict is really an impediment to Arab cooperation on the Iranian nuclear issue. The evidence, however, is that the Arab states have never seriously cared about the Palestinians and that they have their own self-interest in seeing Iran's nuclear ambitions thwarted, an issue which has nothing to do with the Palestinian question.

The parties also do not see any urgency. In fact, in September 2008, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas turned down then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's sweeping offer for Palestinian statehood that would have given the Palestinians 98.1% of the West Bank [sic] and allowed thousands of Palestinians to return to Israel.2 Yet, Abbas turned down the offer, claiming there were "gaps,"3 and failed to offer a viable counteroffer.

Following his May 2009 meeting with President Obama, Abbas also made clear the Palestinians are in no hurry to negotiate with Israel, let alone make any concessions. He expressed the view that Obama's opposition to Israeli settlements would eventually bring down the Netanyahu government and he was content to put off any peace talks until Netanyahu is out of office. Jackson Diehl wrote in The Washington Post that "Abbas and his team ... plan to sit back and watch while US pressure slowly squeezes the Israeli prime minister from office. 'It will take a couple of years,' one official breezily predicted."4 Until then, Abbas stated, "in the West Bank we have a good reality ... we are having a good life"5.

This statement contrasts starkly with the typical image projected by the PA and the media of the Palestinians as an impoverished, suffering people. Abbas also left no doubt that the Palestinian leadership feels no urgency for a resumption of the peace process. Abbas told Obama, "There's just about nothing you can do."6

Israelis also see no urgency. While the Israeli public and prime minister are committed to peace with the Palestinians they are very cognizant of the Palestinians' obstinate position. Furthermore, Israelis see no chance of reaching an agreement with the Palestinians so long as their leadership remains splintered with Hamas controlling the Gaza Strip and the West Bank barely controlled by the unpopular and politically weak Abbas.

Israelis also need confidence building time to recover from fighting three wars in the last nine years that have cost more than 1,200 Israeli lives and forced parts of the country to live in a state of almost constant anxiety as a result of years of rocket bombardments. Indeed, during Obama's meeting with Abbas, the [US] president told the Palestinian president that the Israelis have good reason to be concerned about security.7 The American president should therefore understand that now is not the time for a rush to diplomacy and that the first priority should be creating a sense of security in Israel.

"Peace now" is not just a slogan, it is what every Israeli wants. President Obama should be applauded for sharing this desire and wanting to make it a reality; however, the conditions in the region will have to radically improve before it will be possible to achieve the goal Americans and Israelis share.

[Editor's note: There are many people in Israel who will never accept a "two state final solution", and neither will Yahweh, the God of Israel. The only "improvement" that needs to be made is that the rest of the world accepts this stance. Otherwise, we shall see the words of the prophet Zechariah soon fulfilled:

"Then Yahweh will come forth and make war on those nations as He is wont to make war on a day of battle. On that day, He will set His feet on the Mount of Olives, near Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives shall split across from east to west, and one part of the Mount shall shift to the north and the other to the south, a huge gorge.... And Yahweh my God, with all the holy beings, will come to you.... And Yahweh shall be king over all the earth; in that day there shall be one Yahweh with one name." (Zechariah 14:3-9)]

  1. White House Press Release (May 28, 2009).
  2. Tovah Lazaroff, "Channel 2: Olmert Offers PA 98.1% of West Bank," The Jerusalem Post (September 15, 2008).
  3. Jackson Diehl, "Abbas's Waiting Game," The Washington Post (May 29, 2009).
  4. Ibid.
  5. Marty Peretz, "The Spine," The New Republic (May 29, 2009).
  6. Jackson Diehl, "Abbas's Waiting Game," The Washington Post (May 29, 2009).
  7. White House Press Release (May 28, 2009).

[ Mitchell Bard | Published: June 12, 2009 ]

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