Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Obama's presidency and the West Bank settlements

26 August 2009

Obama's presidency and the West Bank settlements
By John Pedler - Aug 25th, 2009 at 1:12 pm EDT

It is with bated breath that we in Europe - or those of us who follow foreign affairs - wait to see whether Obama will stand firm on his requirement that Israel at least freezes the illegal settlements on the West Bank - the sine qua non for any advance on Israel/Palestine.

The Israeli assessment is that for political reasons (Israel's immense hold in Congress and the public over US policies toward Israel) no US president will dare to put such pressure on Israel that its government will have to climb down and truly freeze the settlements not just on the West Bank but in East Jerusalem where building permission is being sought for further Israeli residences. 

But some major move must be made toward resolving the long running Israel/Palestine conflict if any real improvement is to be expected in US/Islamic relations, or US relatons with the Middle East in general. The tension, similar to a state of war, between Israel and the Palestinians of all opinions lies at the root of the international violence termed the "War on Terror". The anguish of the Palestinians was and remains the main recruiting serjeant for Al Qaeda and the "jihadis" it has spawned worldwide. 

If Obama blinks - as Israel and many US and international observers believe he will - and effectively accepts Israel's continuing expansion of the settlements, that will put paid to his claim to be bringing real change to US foreign policy. Not only Islamic states, but Russia, China, and indeed our European countries will assess him as weak and indecisive in foreign affairs. For on this point - the settlements - everyone knows America's interests require that he does not "blink".

Many originally assessed J F Kennedy as similarly a great orator but a weak president. Khruschev tried to exploit that - but Kennedy did not blink over the Cuba crisis. This was a major setback for the communist bloc and led eventually to its collapse. 

President Obama - will you stand firm now the hour for decision on Israel/Palestine is at hand? Or will "they" write you off as irresolute? 

The next few weeks will likely determine your presidency. For not only Israel/Palestine, but US health care demands you stand firm and many are now doubting your resolution on that too. 

In Europe our hopes are with you though we are too weak and divided to do much to help you. The future you make is our future too!

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