05-15-09 Obama must pressure extremist Netanyahu to achieve peace

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Obama must pressure Netanyahu to achieve peace
By: Ali Younes  —
On his first visit to the United States since taking office, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will have the chance to present President Barack Obama with his case for a plan to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Netanyahu’s right wing government, however, has vocally opposed the two-state solution. The two-State solution is an official U.S. policy and an internationally accepted model for solving the Middle East central conflict as stipulated by the U.S. roadmap and the Annapolis conference. Netanyahu wants the U.S. administration to deal with Iran’s nuclear program, before any peace-making with the Palestinians. President Obama will listen to what Netanyahu have to say about Iran but disagrees that the Palestinian issue should be placed on the back burner until Iran’s issue is resolved.

The U.S. currently opposes a “lengthy drawn-out process” of negotiating which was a bad idea from the start. US Permanent Representative to the UN Suzan Rice  articulated the U.S. policy during UN Security Council deliberations last week, saying that the U.S. policy in the region ” includes a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security.”

Netanyahu meanwhile offered “unconditional and immediate negotiation” with Arab States. The Arab perspective holds that Netanyahu’s “offer” is suspicious. Arabs have learned from years of dealing with successive Israeli governments that prolonged “negotiations” are not necessarily a road that will reach a peaceful solution; but rather, they realized, a road that lead to nowhere.

 Arab analysts contend that prolonged negotiations are a strategic Israeli approach toward diluting the conflict and never actually solving it. For example, Palestinians have seen their “promised state” shrinking year after year due to Israeli illegal settlements since started negotiating with the Israelis in 1991.

Arab States have offered Israel the Arab Peace Initiative that has been on the table, with revisions, since 1982. The current Arab position was recently articulated by Jordan’s King Abdullah II during his meeting with President Obama last month. This position holds that Palestinians should have a state on lands that Israel occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem as the capital of this state. In exchange, Israel will enjoy full diplomatic and economic ties with 57 Muslim nations that comprise the entire Arab and Muslim world. King Abdullah also warned that this could be the last opportunity toward achieving a lasting peace in the Middle East. Otherwise, the region will be heading toward an all out war, which is in no one’s interests.

Netanyahu will find himself hard pressed to accommodate the new U.S. administration’s vision to end this conflict.  Netanyahu’s lack of interest in this formula, at this point, could put him at odds with U.S. strategic plans for the region. The U.S. is in the middle of reorienting and reassessing its relations with the Arab and Muslim World. The major components of this reorientation are: devising a strategy to deal with potent threats to U.S. interests regarding Iran’s nuclear program and the stabilization of Iraq as well as dealing with Afghanistan/Pakistan, or the AFPAK region. It is understood by U.S. analysts that in order for the US to be able deal with threats in the region, the U.S. must work out an equitable solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Netanyahu, on the other hand, will try to convince the U.S. President of his conspicuous idea of “economic peace” with the Palestinians. According to this view, the Palestinian people will enjoy an improvement in their daily lives, by removing roadblocks, checkpoints, and perhaps lift the siege of Gaza. In addition, the Palestinians will come to enjoy relative prosperity but without political rights or political sovereignty over their own native lands. As a result, they will become essentially “resident aliens” or “alien subjects,” thus making them subject to possible expulsion should the circumstances change. Israel therefore would retain sovereignty and ownership of Palestinian lands.

U.S. interests in the region will most likely compel President Obama to tell Prime Minister Netanyahu that Israel will no longer have a free ride in the region at the expense of the United States. Observers of U.S. policy in the region claim that this was the case during the presidency of former president George Bush, who, according to them, practically turned his back on the Middle East and let Israel run that part of the world. President Obama will in the meantime, stress the fact that Israel will continue to have the “special relationship” it enjoys with the U.S., but the president will also have to tell Netanyahu that this is now a two-way street.

 Ali Younes is a writer and Middle East analyst based in Washington DC. He can be reached at : ali.younes@charter.net

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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award winning political columnist and author. He covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).

Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.

The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.

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Ray Hanania