The Obama-Bibi race

The Administration push for a new Obama Plan is led, according to leaks, by Hillary Clinton, while the opposition to it is led by Dennis Ross. Clinton already announced at the US-Islamic World Forum in Washington that "Obama will be speaking in greater detail about America's policy in the Middle East and North Africa in the coming weeks". The proposed plan ,apparently, calls for a Palestinian State based on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its Capital (what the Palestinians are demanding). On the other hand, it proposes that West Jerusalem be recognized (after 60 years!) as Israel's capital, and that Israeli security concerns be adressed...if this is so, it is no wonder Dennis Ross, a known advocate for Israel, is oppossing the push...

As for Bibi Netanyahu, very little is known of what he might propose, but rumors fly that he would propose a limited further Israeli redeployment in the West Bank, something completely insufficient to stop the tide of Palestinian unilateralism. This would come, however, on the heels of multiple measures taken by Israel to ease movement within the West Bank for Palestinians and to shore up Palestinian economic development, something Israel did in the hope that if Palestinians have more to loose, they will be less willing to resort to violence.

In spite of all that, it is clear that Israel must come up with something bolder to prevent Europe and Latin America to support Palestinian unilateralism next September. Palestinian unilateral declaration of Independence even if supported by the UN, would shatter the negotiating framework that has been in place since 1993, and would take away from Israel the only bargaining chip it has: territory.

Much ado has been made of the Palestinian progress in economic, social and political institutionalization in the past two years, to the point that at an international meeting in Brussels the Palestinian Authority claimed that "Palestinians are now ready for Statehood"...but are they? An article by Patrick Clawson and Michael Singh of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (read here) raises serious questions about that assertion. Nevertheless, the PA might still have a majority come September to achieve their goal of unilateral recognition of Independence. The stakes could not be higher.

Both, Netanyahu and Obama would like to be the first to come up in public with a plan, since that will force the other to rethink his own. It is well known that Obama and Netanyahu do not get along nor do they share the same perceptions about Arabs nor the future of the Middle East. The battle is on. Democrats are blaming Republicans of trying to make Israel a Partisan wedge issue, while Republicans are blaming Democrats of abandoning Israel in favor of a pro-Arab foreign policy. There is no way to know today how much truth there is in what one Party or the other claim, but it is clear that in the coming months we might learn indeed how much is truth and how much is not of what each party is saying.

As for Israel, over the last few months a growing consensus has been evolving around the concept of using the 1967 border as a basis, but defining the final borders differently with a 1:1 land swap to compensate for the areas of the West Bank Israel will annex. Problem is, however, that a unilateral declaration of Independence by the Palestinians will make it impossible for Israel to move ahead on that consensus, because it will be interpreted as surrender by the Arab world, completely errasing whatever deterrence power Israel has left on the Diplomatic front.

In the meantime, Ahmedinejad continues to support government repression and killing of civilians in Syria as well as helping the Shi'ite rebellions in Bahrain and Yemen, while continuing to provide weapons for Hamas and Hezbollah and promoting unrest in Saudi Arabia. And the world continues to watch silently and doing nothing.

In June, we are planning to attend as a community the Salute to Israel Parade in New York City. If there was a time to put aside internal differences and stand up as one for the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in the Jewish State of Israel - This is it!


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