Friday, April 17, 2009

President Obama and the road to Jerusalem.

No doubt Barack Obama’s visit to Europe and Turkey was a great success and his fresh new approach of inviting the world to a partnership with the world is a welcomed contrast to the value and world view of his predecessor George W. Bush. This partnership for sure will bring peace, security and prosperity to the world, certainly to the US.

While Afghanistan and Pakistan problems will not be easy to solve and are doable, the issue and conflict in the Middle East specially the Arab-Israeli conflict will be far more difficult if not impossible to solve without the US taking some very tough measures and decisions including lifting of political and military cover to Israel and its Occupation.

Before President Barack Obama and his administrations can resolve the Middle East conflict and bring peace and security to the Middle East and succeed in making Israel a viable partner for peace and prosperity of the Middle East, he and his administrations has to consider and address the followings issues and difficulties:

1. Intransigent American Jewish Community: Before Obama can move forward and take the necessary and bold steps to solving the conflicts, he must make sure his flank and back are covered from the backlash of a powerful American Jewish community, especially its leadership that has and 67 War, apposed peace and putting obstacles between Israel and the Palestinians. With AIPAC and the Jewish Lobby playing major and critical role in formulating and shaping the US policies at all levels; at the White House, National Security Council, United Nation certainly in Congress and at major think tanks. President Obama must reach directly to members of Congress and secure their support for his efforts. An American Congress under the toxic influence of the Jewish Lobby can make life hell for Barack Obama and his administration. The American Jewish leadership and for many years held the American Jewish community, Congress and all US administrations, Israel and the entire Middle East hostage to its own self serving interests. Peace between Israel and the Palestinians was never a priority. This leadership and community thorough the power and influence it has in Washington undermined any and all serious efforts toward peace since the days of Lyndon Johnson. This leadership and community with the likes of Dennis Ross, Martin Indyke, and Elliot Abrams among many others played major role in formulating US policies especially Israeli Jewish Settlement and Jerusalem. Two key issues that made peace impossible between Israel and the Palestinians. Without Barack Obama facing this powerful leadership and community face to face it will be very difficult for the US to make any headway. The fear is for President Obama to retreat before this very powerful community that does not see peace in the Middle East, especially between Israel and the Palestinians as a strategic goal and part of its own agenda.

2. An Israel that does not see peace as strategic goal: Israel and since 67 War it believes that it liberated the rest of what remained of historical Palestine and does not see it self as an occupying power and even when it consider it presence “questioned”, it refers to the Occupied West Bank as “disputed territories” but never as the Occupied Territories. First Israel went about annexing East Jerusalem as part of Eretz Israel it subsequently went ahead with plans to create “facts on the ground” that will make it almost impossible for a future Palestinian state to ever exist inside historical Palestine. Israel’s settlement policies found a listening and very supportive partner in the US due to the influence and power of American Jewish policy makers who shifted the issue of settlements from “illegal”, to “obstacle” to “not helpful” to “facts on the ground”. Israel on every occasion whether it Annapolis or during frequent visits of Condi Rice made sure it robs and steal more and more Palestinian land for its ever expanding settlements. We need to keep in mind that Israel as a nation, as an ideology, as a theology does not see any place for the Palestinians in Eretz Israel. The recent vote for a Netanyahu-Lieberman is only a confirmation of this ideology. It is not a shift in policy but a more honest message that Labor-Kadima did its best to hide and sugar coat for world consumption.

3. A weak, incompetent and corrupt Palestinians leadership: One need to keep in mind that the Palestinians are in this difficult situation due to the irresponsible, reckless policies of the late Yaser Arafat and the PLO leadership. Oslo rather than being the road map to liberation and ending the occupation turned out to be an agreement to perpetuate the Jewish Occupation making the Palestinian Authority a contractor and civil administrator for the Jewish Occupation shifting the costs of the Jewish Occupation from being an Israeli financial burden to an ever ending financial burden for the Palestinians. For over 15 years of Talmudic negotiations the Palestinians found themselves in a never ending losing situation, unable to make any headway toward ending the Jewish Occupation. The PLO and Oslo fatal shortcoming is the fact that Oslo failed to address the issue of ending the Jewish Occupation and the “Final Status Issues” leaving Israel to create facts on the grounds with the military and settler’s occupation as ongoing enterprise leaving the Palestinians simply powerless. The only achievements to show for is 3,000 VIP passes and billions of dollars in the bank accounts of corrupt, inept and unfit leadership, while the people have to put up with the daily miseries, humiliation and often deadly occupation. The PLO under Oslo gave full recognition to Israel (without ever defining the borders of Israel) failed to get and secure any commitment from Israel to end its occupation. 15 years of continuous negotiations made life hell for the Palestinians, robbing them of their land, properties, water, farms not to mention the more than 550 security checkpoints, the Apartheid Wall, daily arrests, targeted killings, home demolitions, ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from Jerusalem. More than 500,000 Palestinians were guests of Israeli prisons in the last 40 years with more than 11,000 held hostages by Israel. The present PLO leadership proved on so many occasions that it is inept, incompetent, unfit and too weak to make ending the occupation as the number one priority. Added to this failure, there is simply too much corruption and too personal and self serving interests for the leadership to make building a nation, albeit under occupation a possibility and priorities. The fact that in over 15 years of efforts, this leadership failed to build and organize a professional security force should speak for itself. One can only imagine the difficulties of building other badly needed institutions such as health care, education, transportation, housing and local development. The PLO leadership proved after 45 years of political and economic monopolies that it is a total failure. Hamas on the other hand and not so much different from its arch enemy Fatah, proved it too is self serving and much more interested in its own agenda and power than working toward practical solutions to ending the occupation. Both Hamas and Fatah do not have as part of their own agendas ending the Jewish Occupation as top priority. The main priorities for both Fatah and Hamas are rebuilding and serving their own political, economic and membership. Disagreement over a political agenda and failure to agree on a world supported plan to rebuild Gaza is but an excuse to cover this self-serving and selfish agenda.

With all of these hornet nests, Barack Obama needs to think out of the box and come up with a plan that can overcome these very difficult issues and situations. To start with, President Obama must utilize the UN Security Council, this time not to give veto cover for Israel’s continued occupation but to pass a UN Security Council Resolution calling for and placing the Palestinian Occupied Territories ( West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza) under an international mandate for an interim period of 5 years and the appointment of a Trustees/Administrator to takes over the total administration of the Occupied Territories from both Israel and the Palestinian Authority. At the moment, the Palestinians under occupation are held hostage by Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Fatah and Hamas.
The Trustee/Administrator must with the support of a combined NATO/UN forces take over all security issues and matters from Israel, including the security of existing Jewish settlements. The Trustee/Administrator should have a mandate to disarm all militias both Palestinians and Jewish, dismantle all security check points, cancel all “Jewish Roads Only” stop the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from Jerusalem, tearing down the Apartheid Wall, and making sure that weapons and security are only in the hands of the combined NATO/UN forces. The Trustee becomes the civil administrator of the formerly Occupied Territories.
Short of this drastic measure, and left on their own, the Palestinians and Israelis will never be unable to reach any viable peace, with one side having all of the powers to make facts on the ground, while the other side is simply inept, incompetent, unfit and corrupt to negotiate a fair deal. Final peace agreement should come after this interim period with Palestinians having the chance during this period to organize their own affairs free from the corrupting influence of Hamas and Fatah, especially the inclusion of the more than 6 millions Palestinians living in the Diaspora. With 5 years as an interim period after ending the Occupation, the Palestinians should be ready to sit down and conclude a final peace with Israel, based on a two state solution and an open, united and shared Jerusalem.

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