In the July 8 Haaretz, US President Barack Obama published an article written on the occasion of Haaretz’s Israel Conference on Peace. The thrust of Obama's piece was an emphatic reassurance to Israel’s leaders that “The security relationship between Israel and the United States is stronger than ever.”
He wrote, ”Our militaries conduct more exercises together,” and “Our intelligence cooperation is at an all-time high.” Further reassuring Israel, he stated, “Budgets in Washington are tight, but our commitment to Israel’s security remains ironclad.”
The article was unequivocal in the fact that the United States has demonstrated its “commitment to Israel’s security through our enduring commitment to a lasting peace in the Middle East.”
Then, Obama said, “While we were disappointed that the tough decisions weren’t made by both parties to keep moving the peace process forward, the United States will never give up on the hope of a lasting peace, which is the only path to true security for Israel.”
I don’t think anyone doubts the sincerity of Obama’s commitment to peace on the basis of what he states as the answer: a two-state solution. Yet, while his reassurance to Israel is clear and coherent, historically, there has not been an equal assurance to the Palestinians. Their quest for peace and statehood remains nebulous as we find the proliferation of settlements and creeping annexation of East Jerusalem continue, which in turn explains the flawed outcome of Secretary of State John Kerry’s repeated interventions in the last few months. The future state of Palestine is questionable without an outright condemnation of settlements. The inequality in the US commitment will not bring the "just" peace that Obama advocates.
The flaw lies in the fact that the United States has not elicited from Israel a clear recognition of being an occupier in the Palestinian territories. This explains the freedom with which it makes its unilateral annexations of Palestinian territory and builds new settlements.
While Haaretz’s Israel Conference on Peace is an opportunity to examine the reasons why various “peace processes” could not help Kerry’s efforts, we must also take this opportunity to admit that Obama’s strong reassurances and commitment to Israel’s security cannot remain predicated on Israel’s definition of its security needs.
The definition of the two-state solution as well as “peace” must be clarified in a manner in tune with the realities that Haaretz has reported, and with what the constituency of conscience in Israel has advocated.
The last couple of years of Obama’s administration, it is to be hoped, will offer an opportunity to reassure the Palestinians that the United States and the UN will seek to remove the obstacles — namely, the illegal settlements — and to promote the rights of Palestinians to have their own state. This will defuse the tensions, the violence and the collective suffering endured by the Palestinian people, and rectify the wrongs of the failed promises since the Oslo agreement and Kerry's floundering during the last few months.