U.S. President Barack Obama needed to pack his bags and head off on his visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority territories so that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict could jump to the forefront and gain some attention after being buried by other concerns during the long Arab Spring season.
Even before it begins tomorrow, however, this visit is condemned to failure. All expectations point to disappointment, indicating it will be nothing more than a recreational visit by the American president to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Ramallah and Bethlehem.
Benjamin Netanyahu has planned a bad reception for Obama by hastily forming a new government whose actual job will be to prevent any advancement along the path to peace, even if the latter does flex his muscles and remind Israelis of the importance of reaching a two-state solution to their conflict with Palestine.
If it is true that the hard-line religious parties are not part of the new government, then who is? And who has the greatest influence? People like Naftali Bennett, leader of The Jewish Home, or even Yair Lapid, who rose to fame as the leader of the Yesh Atid Party, are guaranteed to veto any advancement in the peace process even if Netanyahu did want to signal to Americans and the rest of the world that he is working toward one.
Bennett’s electoral platform was based on calling for the annexation of 60 percent of the West Bank. Similarly, he proclaims publicly that he rejects the possibility of the creation of a Palestinian state “for at least 200 years.”* Lapid’s fundamental concern, as indicated during his electoral campaign, is “forgetting the crisis with the Palestinians” and turning attention to Israel’s domestic scene, despite his non-extreme discourse and desire to end the exemption of religious school students from military service.** A domestic focus involves executing economic and social reforms that meet the demands of the “Israeli Spring” demonstrators who took to the streets of Tel Aviv and the rest of Israel’s cities in the summer of 2011. For the first time in the history of the Jewish state, those demonstrations were free from any reference to the peace predicament or the future of Israel’s relationships with its Arab neighbors.
In contrast to the crisis with the Palestinians — which the Israelis have placed at the bottom of their priority list — the crisis with Iran over its nuclear program stands out at the forefront of concerns. Here, as well, Obama and Netanyahu do not agree on a single position, even though the inflammatory language each of them uses in reference to Tehran has almost converged. While the head of Israel’s government only sees a military solution to this crisis — striking Iran’s reactors — Obama keeps repeating that “all options [are] on the table,” as he did in his latest interview with Channel 2 in Israel. This is an attempt to take the middle ground between Israel’s wishes and the U.S. administration’s decision — in the absence of any arrangement from the political leadership or the Pentagon to resort to military measures — to resort to diplomatic solutions to settle the conflict.
Stagnation therefore governs U.S.-Israeli relations, as it does Palestinian-Israeli relations. Continuing to build settlements with impunity and establishing “facts on the ground,” as they call it, Israelis are benefiting from this stagnation. They do this because they believe they can block any future attempt to establish a Palestinian state if most of the land in the West Bank — where such a state could be based — is in the hands of Jewish settlers. In addition, the continuous Judaization of Jerusalem is, at its core, aimed at putting an end to the Palestinian dream of having East Jerusalem as the capital of their promised state.
*Editor’s note: Although translated correctly, this quote could not be verified.
**Editor’s note: Although translated correctly, this quote could not be verified.