Nov 20 2012
By Daoud Kuttab
Reelected U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to be able to conduct policy with much more vigor.
While on domestic and economic issues he will need to work with a Republican House (the Senate will be Democratic), foreign relations is where the executive branch (the White House and the State Department) has the ability to apply his policies.
America’s first African American president who grew up in several parts of the world should be able to produce a foreign policy much closer to his heart and beliefs without having to worry about another election.
Second-term U.S. presidents, who naturally care about their legacy, often look overseas to find ways for history to remember them.
War and peace cannot be addressed in any part of the world more than in the Middle East, where the U.S. is fighting a war in Afghanistan and will continue to need to win the hearts and minds of Arabs and Muslims.
Obama’s win also signals a clear vote of confidence from American Jews who voted for him. More than 70 percent of U.S. Jews supported the president (unlike American Israelis who supported Romney).
On the Palestinian side, the newly reelected U.S. president can count on a Palestinian leader who, similarly, is not shackled by the need to run for office again. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is determined not to run for office again, which leaves him free to say his mind, as he did last week when he said on Israel TV’s second channel what most Palestinians think.
Abbas declared that Palestine is the territories occupied in 1967 and that most Palestinians (including himself) do not insist on returning to live in their homes in Israel.
Even the head of the Islamic movement Hamas is not planning to run for reelection as the head of the political bureau. Khaled Mishaal, who left Syria and has publicly supported popular rather than military struggle as the way to liberate Palestine, also supports the two-state solution based on the 1967 borders.
So with the reelection of Obama, and with his strong foreign policy record and his tough policy against radical extremist forces around the world, he should be in a good position to push for a vigorous policy in the Middle East.
Solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict must rank high in Obama’s second term. Obviously new blood and new ideas are needed to give this effort a serious push.
As was proved before, moving ahead in the Middle East will most likely have to be done through a mix of pressure and behind-the-scenes politicking.
The Egyptian-Israeli peace agreement and the initial Palestinian-Israeli memorandum of understanding were prepared in secret. Obviously, once a package deal is agreed upon, it will require public support. Previous experience makes one inclined to believe that the public will most likely support a deal that leaders would agree to.
Almost everyone knows what such a deal would entail. A two-state solution will have to be basically based on the 1967 borders with some land swaps based on equity in percentages and quality of lands.
The refugee issue has been widely discussed and a solution will most likely include an admission by Israel of historic and moral responsibility for causing the refugee problem, in return for most Palestinians opting not to return (possibly a small percentage can be allowed to return over a number of years).
For Jerusalem, also, there are many solutions suggested that can be focused on. The Clinton parameters called for Palestinian neighbourhoods as part of the Palestinian state and Jewish-populated areas that could be part of the state of Israel.
An unshackled U.S. president along with Palestinian leaders yearning for peace can be a perfect formula for progress in this centuries-old conflict. No case can enable the reelected president to etch his legacy and be remembered in history more than the Palestinian case.
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