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The Obama Peace Plan

Is there such a thing, really, as “The Obama Peace Plan?” And if so, is there anything new in it, or is it just the same old stuff, recycled? And in any case, and an event of it materializing, is it good for the Jews, for the Israelis, the Americans and for the Middle East? And by and large, the world? Let’s see.

First, as for the peace plan. It was reported by David Ignatious of the Washington Post, on April 7, that despite recent turbulence in U.S. relations with Israel, President Obama is “seriously considering” proposing an American peace plan to resolve the Palestinian conflict. “Everyone knows the basic outlines of a peace deal,” said one senior official, citing the agreement that was nearly reached at Camp David in 2000 and in subsequent negotiations. He said that an American plan, if launched, would build upon past progress on such issues as borders, the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees and the status of Jerusalem. A second senior official said that “90 percent of the map would look the same” as what has been agreed on in previous bargaining.

In other words: nothing new under the sun. Indeed, in the sunset months of his administration, President Clinton had tried, with the help of then Israeli PM Ehud Barak to bring about a comprehensive peace agreement, aiming to solve once and for all the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It was Barak, in fact, who right after elected Prime Minister in 1999 had set his sights on such a comprehensive solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict, including Syria and Lebanon. It failed miserably. Forces, including within the Israeli intelligence community, sabotaged his attempts at a deal with Syria. And Arafat, with his shortsightedness on the one hand, and Ariel Sharon with his power grabbing ambitions on the other, did the same in Israel and Palestine. Does all this mean the comprehensive approach, rather than the incremental one (favored by George Mitchell, the president’s special envoy for the Middle East) is dead from the get go? Not so.

It may be the only way to solve the conflict. This new development, it seems, includes also a plan of dealing with the Iran issue. Ignatious goes on to report that the American peace plan would be linked with the issue of confronting Iran, which is Israel’s top priority. So explained the second senior official, describing the issues as two halves of a single strategic problem: “We want to get the debate away from settlements and East Jerusalem and take it to a 30,000-feet level that can involve Jordan, Syria and other countries in the region,” as well as the Israelis and Palestinians.

Well, this is new, actually. Of course, no one really knows how to deal with Iran. Even Defense Secretary Gates is unsure. As was reported by The New York Times last week, he “has warned in a secret three-page memorandum to top White House officials that the United States does not have an effective long-range policy for dealing with Iran’s steady progress toward nuclear capability.” Israel, on its part, seems ready to launch such an attack, if only Obama will greenlight it. What’s more, Netanyahu keeps stressing the Issue of Iran over the Palestinian issue, as the one more crucial to Israel’s existence. Even though some scholars and political observers, including Israeli ones, are suggesting otherwise; that the whole Iran nuclear threat is blown out of all proportions. Not to mention that some highly regarded experts voiced the opinion that the real deterrent against the use of nuclear weapon is, in fact, possessing one. Since America bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, no nuclear weapons had been used, and no full-scale war occurred between two nations—such as India and Pakistan—possessing nuclear capabilities.  Exactly because both sides know very well what would happen to their country and people, in case they would start such war.

Still, should President Obama decide to launch this new/old peace plan, it would be a major step in the right direction. It would also, according to Ignatious “… mark a return to the ambitious themes the president sounded in his June 2009 speech in Cairo.” As for Netanyahu (and other Israelis), who because of the relative security and lack of terror attacks, and a prospering economy, think that “Messiah Days” are finally here, and that this status quo is working just fine—he is entertaining a big-time illusion. Sooner or later it will blow up. It always does.

Much better, therefore, in order to prevent it from exploding in the first place, is to do it in peaceful means. It would be good for Israel and the Jews, the Americans and the Middle East. The peace plan’s ingredients—a Palestinian state existing side-by-side with Israel, sharing Jerusalem, going back to 90% of the pre 67 war borders, limited right of return (mostly financial compensations)—are within reach. Sometimes, one needs a little push from a friend—”Tough Love;” see the 08/29/09 post—to understand what’s good for him. Israel should understand that and oblige; even form a national coalition government if need be.

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