Obama, Israel and Palestine
The latest edition of Bitter Lemons International focuses on the Obama Administration’s actions thus far in addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Chris Toensing, editor of the Middle East Report, provides analysis on engaging Hamas and posits that Senator John Kerry plays a special role in the Obama administration as “a sort of shadow secretary of state who will go, physically and verbally, where Hillary Clinton will not.” At a recent Brooking’s speech, Kerry proclaimed settlements as obstacles to peace and went so far as to declare that “..in our honest moments we would all acknowledge that this policy [against the settlements] has usually existed on paper alone.” Toensing believes “there is indeed no peace in Israel-Palestine without them [Hamas]” and if the Obama administration understood this, they would drop the “insistence that Hamas give up its negotiating cards before the negotiations begin”.
While Abdel Monem Said Aly, director of the Al Ahram Center for Political & Strategic Studies in Cairo, writes that Obama has hit the ground running with a renewed focus on the conflict, Aluf Benn, editor at-large of Haaretz, believes the issue is not one of the President’s foreign policy priorities claiming he’s only paid it lip service. While Benn admits the Obama team has made a number of important diplomatic gestures, on policy, he asserts, they’ve been in lockstep with their predecessors, symbolized by their respect of Quartet conditions. The true test will come when the new Israeli government assumes leadership and moves to expand settlements, a move which Netanyahu has openly supported.