With the Middle East in turmoil, the former senator should prioritize a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine
America’s next chief diplomat will have a whole deck of world problems to deal with, but Senator Kerry in that role should use his influence early to persuade his boss to resume efforts towards a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine.
Having been out bluffed on Jewish settlements in the West Bank by Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu early in the first term, Obama will be tempted to put Palestine on hold during his second. He shouldn’t.
President Obama might say to his new secretary: John, the Palestinians had no role in the Arab Spring, and the entire region is in trouble. Syria is on the boil, Egypt’s future is in doubt, Iraq is unstable. The whole house of cards could collapse. You are one of the few people I have who can talk to President Karzai, and Afghanistan’s going to be our king-sized problem in the next four years. And the stakes could be even higher in Iran. The Palestinians are hopelessly divided. Netanyahu has the aces, and will never go for a two-state solution. The West Bank is quiet. Why can’t we just leave those Palestinian deuces face down?
Kerry could answer: Yes, there might be more immediate and pressing problems, but the Palestinians, like a fire in a coal mine, burn slowly on and on and are a constant source of grievance and instability throughout the Muslim world. Besides, it is grotesque in the 21st century that one people should dominate another in the manner that Israel dominates the Palestinians. It might not be colonialism or apartheid, but it is wrong and many Israelis, maybe most, know it. Mr. President, you keep saying you have Israel’s back, but the best thing you could do for our closest ally in the Middle East would be to help Israel find its way out of Palestine.
In political terms, few countries have as much influence on each other’s domestic politics than Israel and the US. Four years ago, Mr. President, you were eyeball to eyeball with Netanyahu over settlements. You blinked first and folded. He humiliated you by going before both houses of Congress to undermine you, and there were no consequences. An ally shouldn’t be allowed do that to the American president without consequences. Then Netanyahu did his best to get Romney elected in your place.
And no sooner did you have the United States vote against the purely symbolic UN vote for Palestinian statehood, on the theory that you had Israel’s back, than Netanyahu stuck his knife into yours by ordering massive new settlements. This cannot go on, Mr. President. In the end the Israeli public will not let any prime minster stray too far from the United States, Israel’s only important ally. You should make it clear that there will be consequences.
Now, Mr. President, Israel is about to have an election. Netanyahu will be returned to office and it would be counter-productive to try to influence Israeli voters otherwise. But once the election is over, Mr. President, you should go to Jerusalem, lay out your vision before Knesset. You probably should have gone to Jerusalem early in your first term, but it would be a great mistake not to go early in your second.
If we could really put the Palestinian problem on hold, meaning to do nothing and have nothing happen, that would be one thing. But Netanyahu is loading the deck. Every new settlement leaves less room for a two-state solution. You should concentrate on halting settlements before they overwhelm all the world’s hopes for Palestine. You have plenty of cards to play, Mr. President, and now, free from the need to get elected again, you should play them.
Your enemies like to paint you, Mr. President, as not a friend to Israel, but talk to anybody in Israel’s military and security apparatus, and you will hear that seldom has this relationship been closer. You really do have Israel’s back, and in the long run Israel is not Netanyahu. Your administration simply cannot afford to hold off the Palestinians, and it would be disastrous to fold.
More Related Stories
- Army weapons engineer tied to white nationalist organizations
- Ted Cruz against the world
- David Vitter's hypocritical, punitive, horrible new amendment
- Louie Gohmert: Women should be forced to carry nonviable pregnancies to term
- Could hackers destroy the U.S. power grid?
- Democrats may be even worse than Republicans at regulating Wall Street
- Eric Holder versus journalism
- A progressive defense of drones
- There's no substitute for government disaster relief
- Holder signed off on search warrant for reporter
- Mississippi could begin prosecuting women for miscarriages
- Mike Judge: "Bowling for Columbine" made me pro-gun
- Closing Gitmo is not enough
- Murkowski: Palin too disengaged to run for Senate
- In IRS scandal, new GOP tactic is ignorance
- Code Pink activist berates Obama at national security speech
- Cuomo: "Shame on us" if New York City elects Weiner
- Coburn calls questions about tornado aid "typical Washington B.S."
- Conspiracy theorists clash over London attack
- Voting is not a right
- Destroying the planet for record profits
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11
Salon is proud to feature content from GlobalPost, an awarding-winning international news site that focuses on original reporting from journalists stationed around the world. GlobalPost combines traditional journalistic values with the power of new media to offer a fresh perspective on global developments.