U.S. Official Explains Obama's Israel Trip -Yitzhak Benhorin
Deputy U.S. National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said that President Obama's upcoming visit to Israel "is not about trying to lay down a new initiative or complete our work on a particular issue; that, frankly, there's value in traveling precisely at a time when there is a new government in Israel and a new government in the United States and just having a broad strategic conversation."
"With a new government, you don't expect, again, to close the deal on any one major initiative. But you, on the other hand, want to begin a broad conversation about all these issues where we're cooperating on a day-to-day basis. And there are obviously going to be significant decisions in the months and years ahead about Iran, about Syria, about Israeli-Palestinian peace.... That's the way in which the President is approaching the trip."
If a Palestinian State Were Established -Khaled Abu Toameh
As President Obama prepares to visit the region, he would do well to take the following facts into consideration: Any agreement reached between Israel and the Palestinian Authority would be rejected by a large number of Palestinians, especially Palestinian refugees who continue to insist on the "right of return" to their former villages inside Israel. A majority of Arabs and Muslims would also reject such a peace agreement, especially in the wake of the "Arab Spring."
Even if a Palestinian state were established in the West Bank, Hamas and other groups would work to take control of it and, with the help of Iran and al-Qaeda, turn it into a launching pad for attacking Israel and other neighbors.
The PA is in power thanks to the presence of the IDF in the West Bank. Ironically, ending Israeli "occupation" would also bring an end to Abbas' rule.
Any agreement reached under the auspices of the U.S. would be received with utmost suspicion. Already, many Palestinian activists are waging a campaign on Facebook and Twitter to "prevent Obama from desecrating the land of Palestine." Activists have called for "huge demonstrations" in the West Bank to protest against Obama's visit; they are even preparing shoes to throw at his motorcade.
IDF Military Intelligence Chief Surveys Threats -Yoav Zitun
IDF Military Intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi said that "[f]or the first time in dozens of years Israel has four borders threatened by terrorist breaching."
Kochavi noted that "for the first time in many years the four main [regional] powers - Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt - are controlled by religious leadership.... The State of Israel is considered by them as unacceptable, so it will be increasingly difficult in the coming years to reach agreements and normalization."
Close the Peace Gap -David M. Weinberg
The best thing that President Obama can do to advance Middle East peace is to press the Palestinians to close the "peace gap" - to help Palestinian leaders bring their own constituency towards the levels of compromise and moderation that Israeli leaders have successfully achieved. Over the past thirty years, Israelis have gone from denying the existence of a Palestinian people to recognition of Palestinian peoplehood and national aspirations. Israel has even withdrawn altogether from Gaza, and allowed a Palestinian government to assume authority over 95% of West Bank residents.
The Palestinians, however, have utterly failed to move themselves away from rejectionism and towards peace with Israel. Many Palestinian political and religious figures still deny the historic ties of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel, and refuse to accept the legitimacy of Israel's existence in the Middle East as a Jewish state.
There is an enormous gap between the two peoples in their readiness for peace. The Palestinians are light years away from being ready to settle amicably with Israel, whereas Israelis are desperately eager to cut a fair deal with the Palestinians. Without a serious attempt to address the peace gap, any new diplomatic initiative will fail and will sink into the quicksand of Palestinian rejectionism.
Obama Not Coming to Press Israel -Herb Keinon
- Uzi Arad, who sat in on Obama-Netanyahu meetings as Netanyahu's national security adviser for the first two years of the prime minister's second term, is not among those who believe that foremost on President Obama's mind will be pressing Israel on the Palestinian issue.
- "There is nothing much to push hard on," he said. "It is clear that the realities allow for only so much maneuvering space." According to Arad, the U.S. administration has largely abandoned the sentiment that a final status agreement is lurking just around the corner, with Hamas' consolidation of power in Gaza and the resulting "hardening" of the Palestinian camp major reasons for the jettisoning of this assumption.
- The new Palestinian reality - Fatah in the West Bank, Hamas in Gaza - has altered the viability of the 2001 Clinton parameters. When Clinton presented his parameters calling for an Israeli withdrawal from some 95% of the West Bank and Gaza, and the division of Jerusalem, no one imagined Hamas would rule Gaza and "be armed to the teeth. That would have been considered a nightmare at the time." That this nightmare is now reality makes things look significantly different.
- He recommended limited, reciprocal steps for any peace process to work. "No one can expect Israel to take steps, but that the Palestinians do not. Unilateral steps will not fly, people are wiser and older. This should be a two-way street."
Will Obama Finally Crack the Israeli Code? -Jeffrey Goldberg
One of the reasons Obama is traveling to Israel is to correct the impression, partly created in his 2009 Cairo speech, that he doesn't understand Israel's history, and has no feeling for the underlying justice of its cause. The Cairo speech had a chilling effect because, to Israelis, the Holocaust alone doesn't justify the existence of their state. "The Holocaust doesn't explain why we're here," said Yossi Klein Halevi, a research fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. "The Holocaust explains why we fight as fiercely as we do to stay here, but it doesn't explain our rootedness."
Halevi said Obama failed to acknowledge "Jewish indigenousness in the region," the idea that the uninterrupted Jewish presence in the lands of ancient Israel for more than 3,000 years justifies the modern Jewish claim to a state there.
Mideast Seeks a New Commitment from Obama -Michael Singh
President Obama's trip this week is about neither Israel nor Jordan. It is about the U.S. and the role we see for ourselves in the Middle East. Our allies want more American leadership in the region and greater clarity regarding U.S. policy on vital issues.
The administration should spend more time listening to our friends and trying to understand their interests. Our allies see Iran's regional activities, the disintegration of Syria and the rise of Islamism as threats. Their cooperation will depend less on our popularity than on convincing them that we share those interests and will act decisively.
Exercising leadership means building consensus, not following it; forming coalitions, not joining them; and shaping outcomes, not reacting to them. If Washington declines to take a leading role in addressing the Middle East's problems, the alternative is likely to be a proliferation of problems as the region's main players and outside supporters stake out their positions.
The writer, who worked on Middle East issues at the National Security Council during 2005-2008, is managing director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Bethlehem Rioters Set Fire to Pictures of Obama -Khaled Abu Toameh
Palestinians in Bethlehem set fire to pictures of U.S. President Barack Obama, saying he was not welcome in their city. PA policemen did not intervene. There were even indications that the PA leadership was encouraging or initiating some of the protests.
Scores of protesters gathered near Manger Square and threw shoes at a U.S. diplomatic vehicle that had arrived as part of preparations for Obama's visit to Bethlehem later this week.
Anti-Obama demonstrations are expected to take place in Ramallah and other Palestinian cities in the coming days.