Delivering his last word to university students in Israel before heading to Jordan, then back home, President Barack Obama asked Israelis to make more sacrifices for a lasting peace. After getting an earful in Ramallah from 77-year-old Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Obama asked Israelis to take steps to reverse the “undertow” of world opinion surrounding the unresolved Palestinian problem. While speaking to students, more Hamas rockets struck Southern Israeli border towns, both making Obama’s point but undermining his message. Obama can’t change the fact that Palestinians are divided between Hamas’ Gaza Strip and the PLO’s West Bank. Hamas seeks to destroy Israel anyway possible, while the PLO stumbles along trying to make peace. Without a unified Palestinian people, Obama knows that Israel has no real peace partner with whom to negotiate.
Before Hamas evicted the PLO in Gaza June 15, 2007, Israel had only one peace partner with whom to negotiate a lasting peace. When Hamas seized Gaza, half the Palestinian population continued Hamas’ declaration of war against Israel. All the suicide bombings in Israeli buses and pizza parlors stem from what Hamas sees as a legitimate war of resistance against Israel. As long as the West Bank’s Abbas has no control over Hamas’ rocket attacks and suicide bombings, there’s no place to talk about what Obama calls an “undertow” of world opinion. White House officials know that it’s not Israel that’s at war with Palestinians: It’s Hamas scheming, collaborating and seeking any way possible to destroy Israel. Whether or not Israel stops builiding settlements or housing in the West Bank, Palestinians and other Arab states won’t stop bagging on Israel.
Obama gets it wrong when he lectures Israel about how its actions in the West Bank add to bad world publicity against the Jewish State. “Given the frustration in the international community, Israel must reverse and undertow of isolation,” Obama told his audience, knowing full well that whatever the concessions, Israel won’t change existing world opinion one iota. Instead of hazarding an opinion of what Israel could do differently, Obama should be talking about the current collaboration in neighboring Syria just over Israel’s border in the Golan Heights of Palestinians and al-Qaeda, fighting together to topple 47-year-old Bashar al-Assad. Barack should mention how Palestinian’s leader-in-exile Khalid Meshaal ran afoul with al-Assad joining forces with al-Qaeda to topple his government. Meshaal’s presence in Syria’s rebel revolt speaks volumes how peace is impossible now.
No matter what the death toll in Syria, the White House needs to get U.S. policy right, not supporting Palestinian rebels fighting alongside al-Qaeda to topple al-Assasd. Russian President Vladimir Putin, no real fan of the U.S., supports al-Assad not only because of Russia’s Tartus Naval Base but because he knows things under radical Islam could get a lot worse. “Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have aright to be a free people in their own land,” said Obama, reverting to platitudes, not reality. Palestinians can’t expect to settle with Israel’s blessing into Israel’s spoils of the 1967 Six-Day War, until or unless they stop waging war. As long as the PLO and Hamas remain divided and Hamas fires rockets into Southern Israel, there can be no negotiated peace settlement. If Palestinians really want their own state, they need to resolve their current civil war.
Too many confused messages get sent from U.S. leaders to both sides. It’s one thing to tell Israelis to stop building in the West Bank, it’s still another to stop Hamas from waging war. “Israelis must recognize that continued settlement activity is counterproductive to the cause of peace, and that an independent Palestine must be viable with real borders that have to be drawn,” said Obama, continuing to placate Palestinians and the Arab Street. Barack knows that Abbas, as leader of the PLO, can’t negotiate peace for Hamas or any other radical Palestinian group. Firing rockets into Israel when Obama visits Ramallah to meet with Abbas underscores that there’s no peace partner with whom to negotiate anything. “It’s the duty of the Israeli government to stop the settlement activities to enable us to talk about the issue in the negotiations,” said Abbas, knowing he can’t speak for Hamas.
Walking a tightrope, Barack was more upfront telling Israel that the U.S. can’t really dictate a peace deal for either side. Obama told Abbas in Ramallah to consider dropping preconditions, like a building freeze in the West Bank, before engaging in discussions with Israel. Unlike the old days before Sept. 11, the U.S. can no longer partner with any group that practices terrorism as a policy, no matter what the justification. As long as Hamas controls Gaza, Abbas can’t negotiate any peace deal for his Ramallah-based government, whether he wanted to or not. Obama knows he walks a fine line telling Israel to do anything at this point, knowing that Hamas has joined with al-Qaeda to topple Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. Before Abbas can gain control over Gaza, it’s premature and fruitless to discuss any peace effort or attempt to create an independent Palestinian state.
About the Author
John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’s editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.