How Barack Obama can save the two-state solution before he leaves office.
By Sam Bahour
President Obama promised that as soon as the Iran nuclear deal is closed he will refocus on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Given this shift of focus is now in sight, Obama should grant U.S. recognition of Palestine as an independent state, albeit a militarily occupied one. Such an elementary step is long overdue and may be the sole act that saves the two-state solution.
Palestine will never be a complete nation state if required to negotiate its statehood with its military occupier Israel. Without the immediate altering of the dynamics of the conflict, extremism is almost guaranteed to begin pouring into the Palestinian community and Israel. Any further deterioration of the situation on the ground could lead a future Republican president to send U.S. boots to protect Israel. That would be a colossal mistake.
Recognizing Palestine would not be such a groundbreaking move. In 2013, 138 countries recognized Palestine as a non-member state in the United Nations. Only the United States and eight others have not. Over 130 states have already bilaterally recognized Palestine, including the Vatican. The United States has been on the wrong side of history for so long on this issue it has lost strategic standing in the Middle East and across the globe. It will continue to do so unless it makes an abrupt about-face.
Obama started his presidency with a clear focus on reviving the peace process. One of his first acts as president was to appoint former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell as special envoy for the Middle East. Then Obama traveled to Cairo to deliver a policy speech where he said, “America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.” Next, Obama took on Israel’s non-stop illegal settlement building in the West Bank and in that debate he made clear that “to ensure that Israel is safe and secure” efforts must be made to “set the stage for a Palestinian state.”
All of these initial overtures to restart the peace process were noble ones, but they all failed. Mitchell resigned in utter frustration, America turned its back on Palestine and focused on Iran, and illegal Israeli settlement building picked up its pace.
More recently, in the fall of 2013, Obama deployed Secretary of State John Kerry to make...Read More