During the campaign and after taking office, President Obama placed changing the environment of the stagnant Palestinian Israeli Peace Process. His initial idea of pushing the Israelis to freeze building past the Green Line, even including around Jerusalem, definitely pushed the Peace Process into virgin territory. Despite the Israeli comprehensive building freeze, against the better judgment of many in the ruling coalition, had the affect of hardening the position of the Palestinians who adopted an attitude of noncooperation holding out for additional concessions. The end result of President Obama’s radical activist intervention was new hope for the Palestinian leadership who saw the potential for their dreams to be answered, finally have an American President who was placing new pressures and demands on Israel while not requiring reciprocal concessions from them. When after almost the entire ten month freeze had expired and it became apparent that no additional demands were forthcoming on the Israelis, Mahmoud Abbas met once in Washington where there was a great shaking of hands, then refused to further meetings until the freeze was extended indefinitely.
Since the expiration of the building freeze, which the Israelis fulfilled their entire commitment despite the ineffectiveness, there has been extensive maneuvering by both sides, making moves, stipulating positions, demanding concessions, pressing Obama to impose on the other side, standing on presumptive principles, expressing disappointments and claiming intransigence by the other side. Despite more heated friction between the two sides, they have hardened their positions and none of the heat generated has warmed the possibilities for peace. The appearances of give and take has mostly turned out to be more grabbing and attempting to take than even the slightest instance of giving. All of this frantic flurry of fakes and feints has resembled the Keystone Cops more than skillful negotiations by an experienced diplomatic corps.
The latest volleys released from each side have included demands that are more posturing than actual honest expectations. The Palestinians insisted that the building freeze be extended for as long as the negotiations were continued. Israel countered with extending the freeze for a set number of months providing the Palestinians recognized Israel’s right to exist as the Jewish State. The Palestinians stood firm that such recognition was absolutely beyond the pale. The Palestinians opened the next salvo demanding that Israel guarantee the return to the Green Line 1948 armistice lines. Israel restated their intent to never again divide Jerusalem, stating it is their eternal indivisible capital. The Palestinians claimed the Temple Mount and Old City of Jerusalem, once again declaring their Muslim roots and denying the validity of any Jewish historical claims.
While this vortex of accusations and demands continued, the United Nations refused to be denied their moment in the limelight. UNESCO stepped forward declaring Rachel’s Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs to be Mosques with no Jewish history or significance. Not to be outdone, the Palestinians followed this up claiming the Kotel, the Western Wall, was built as part of the al-Aska Mosque further stating that there was no archeological evidence to the contrary. Then, this past week the United Nations General Assembly voted to schedule another Durban Conference to be held in New York on September 21, 2011, ten days after the tenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks. The stated agenda for the tenth anniversary of the Durban Conference is to revisit the agenda from the first Durban Conference held in Durban, South Africa where the Muslim and Arab countries supported by the non-aligned nations, numerous nations from Africa, and a plethora of NGO’s convicted Israel of responsibility for virtually every ill in the history of mankind, or at least since 1948. Also vilified at the first Durban Conference was the United States in particular, and the West in general. There was absolutely no mention of any other country having participated in any criminal activities or violence.
All in all, since President Obama took to the world stage to repair America’s image and bring peace to Israel, the Palestinians, the Middle East, and end human suffering wherever it was to be found, the world sure has changed. We have Lebanon on the brink of war, North and South Korea in the initial stages of war, the world economy in a total and complete shambles, anti-Semitism reaching levels not seen since World War Two, Iran at the cusp of becoming a nuclear power, and America’s image in the world reaching all time lows. President Obama sure has succeeded at far more than simply changing Palestinian Israeli relations, but the question is are these changes heading the world in the right direction?
Beyond the Cusp