As President Obama starts his second term in office, he will be making adjustments that reflect his new authority having decisively won in the fall elections. With a new Secretary of State, he can expect adjustments that will come from the leadership of John Kerry. How can the American government posture itself to achieve a maximum result in the powder keg situation between the Jews and the Arabs?
Obama is immediately confronted with the continual posturing that has been going on for decades between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Neither side appears particularly willing to make the concessions that could achieve a breakthrough. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spelled out the bottom line when she said about achieving a settlement. “The parties have to want it more than us.” She put her finger on the tough starting point.
Do the Jews want a settlement? Of course – but! They have been in the power position since the Yom Kippur War. They hold the cards and are not about to relinquish power and control. With the most effective military in the region, there is no contest if push comes to shove. The recent mini-battle in Gaza demonstrated that their military backed by the Iron Dome protection system could have pushed the entire population into the ocean. The Palestinians could claim some sort of victory, but that was nonsense. The offices of Hamas were destroyed. Israel believes time is on their side. They can wait as long as it takes for the Palestinians to throw in the towel.
Israel’s fear is that stepping back from control will only make them vulnerable to worse military action. With enemies like Iran publically stating that they will wipe out Israel, they can not afford to relinquish their advantage. Israel remains a small country with a big military.
Do the Palestinians want a settlement? Of course – but. The right-wing of the Muslim world has vowed to wipe out Israel. If Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas concedes and ends hostilities, he may well be destroyed by his own people. During the Bill Clinton era, Yashar Arafat came to the bargaining table with Israel ready to concede East Jerusalem to the P.A. and he walked out. The Arab world wants killing far more than compromise.
The Palestinians have a point. They have watched world opinion shift in their direction. The Iranians have supplied weaponry and missiles and will continue to do so. The P.A. has little to show in their struggles with Israel, but they are willing to wait. They believe time is on their side.
So, how does America deal with a struggle that has been going on forever while confronting leaders who appear relatively indifferent? I believe the answer is not in increasing pressure on either side, but taking the posture that we will guarantee that their national needs will be met and guaranteed by America. Israel’s issue is military security. The Palestinians want a guarantee that Israeli occupation will end and the Palestinian state will be recognized as a free and independent state. America has the power to achieve this result. An imposed peace plan will not work for either party. Israelis and Palestinians must come to their own terms. The fanatics cannot be pacified, but peaceful terms are achievable for both sides.
America has an opportunity. Let’s pray the USA makes the most of it.