Should Obama Be More Like Bush?


In 2004, President Bush wrote PM Sharon a letter offering a solution to the Palestinian conflict. It was impossible then and it is impossible now.

Haaretz published an opinion piece by Ari Shavit today arguing that the way to break the slowly dying peace process is for US President Obama to act more like former President Bush and for Israeli PM Netayahu base his policies on those of former PM Ariel Sharon.  Shavit’s argument is quite simple completely depends on yet more disregard for the Palestinian political process.

In 2004 President Bush wrote a letter to PM Sharon vaguely promising American support for Israel in regards to Israeli disengagement (code for ending the illegal occupation); specifically, Bush outlined a plan that would leave the settlement blocs in Israeli hands and gave an American guarantee that Palestinian refugees would not be welcomed back into Israel.  Shavit is proposing that the current Israeli PM extend the settlement freeze for 2 months and the current US President return to the position held in the Bush letter.

Shavit argues that if Netanyahu does not extend the freeze he will cross Obama in a regretful way; Shavit speculates that Obama would turn to the 1967 lines as the starting point for a Palestinian state, that the US President would not truly stand by Israel when the Iranian moment of truth came and that Netanyahu risks losing the all-important American support.

[tweetmeme] This argument is flawed in three ways.  First, considering the pressure on Obama from the American Jewry, there is little if any chance that Netanayahu and Israel would face any of the consequences that Shavit outlines.  There is absolutely no chance that Obama abandons Israel in the face of Iran and while Obama might be content to perhaps abstain from some minor UN resolutions against Israel, there is no chance that the US would allow Israel to completely fall in the UN.  Furthermore, considering the proximity of the US elections and the importance of the Jewish vote to Democrats, I find it highly unlikely that Obama would do something as domestically damning as demanding 1967 borders.  Obama has show time and again that he is unable to stand up to Netanyahu and his American backers.  This is no exception.

Besides for Shavit’s erroneous analysis of potential consequences, the entire idea of reverting to the Bush-era letter to Sharon is one that should be immediately discounted.  The foundation of the Bush letter is a solution that is completely unacceptable to the Palestinians and would be an American-imposed solution along Israeli lines.  Such an agreement would be to completely undermine the Palestine right of return – perhaps the most emotional issue in negotiations – without even consulting the Palestinians.  Moreover, Palestinian President Abbas has repeatedly called on the US to impose a solution and Netanyahu has stated his opposition to such an idea.  If Netanyahu were to accept the solution proposed by Bush, it would only demonstrate how biased and unfair the solution actually is.

Finally, Shavit tries to argue that an American rejection of the Bush letter would drastically damage the US in the international community and as an unbiased moderator in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Quite the opposite would happen.  If Obama rejected such a biased and unwise solution, the US might actually gain traction in its fight against world opinion.  Very few currently think that the US can play a just arbiter in this conflict.  By rejecting the idea of imposing a very clearly pro-Israeli solution on Palestine that gives control of Palestinian land to Israel and completely undermines the Palestinian refugees right of return, without even consulting with the Palestinians, Obama would certainly be seen as someone who can see and understand the absurd.

Perhaps the most ridiculous part of Shavit’s editorial was the fact that he suggested that the American President unilaterally sacrifice one of the most sacred rights of the Palestinians for a two-month extension of the settlement freeze.  It was not in exchange for peace, or an end to the occupation or even a promise to completely halt Israeli colonization.  The exchange was Palestinian land and the right of return for two months.  60 days.  Here is to hoping that Obama is wise enough to laugh such a proposal off as unjust and absurd.

Photo from Alrakami

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