Thursday, July 31, 2008

West Bank wall bigger than Berlin's

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Before leaving Israel, Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama told reporters that, if elected, he plans to engage in peacemaking efforts between Israelis and Palestinians, based on the principle of two states for two people. However, before Sen. Obama's plane landed in Germany for his next stop, an Israeli government panel approved the building of a new settlement deep inside the West Bank's Jordan Valley.

Since the first talks that led to the Oslo Accords, every U.S. president has pursued a policy of peace-making based roughly recognizing the 1967 borders of Israel. Yet even as American policymakers have come to realize that the growth of an Israeli presence in West Bank is a direct challenge to a viable two-state solution, little has been done to prevent this from happening.

Jerusalem, perhaps the area most affected by settlement expansion, remains a critical and controversial city because of the role it will play in any agreement between Israelis and Palestinians. East Jerusalem, which Palestinians want as their capital, is surrounded by newly expanded settlements and the security structures that come with them.

As a result, the two-state solution - the backbone of negotiations for nearly two decades - is in jeopardy. Many already argue that the sun has set on a two-state solution.

American presidential candidates compete for votes based, in part, on who has the best policy on Iraq, Iran and the energy crisis. Voters should also pay close attention to which candidate will be most committed to solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The greatest obstacle in the way of peace today is an infrastructure of apartheid. American policymakers must make clear to the Israelis that this matrix of settlements, walls and checkpoints must change to make the territory for the Palestinians, and a two-state solution, viable.

If it is the objective of U.S. policy to let a two-state solution fail, then little has to change.

However, if committed to the two-state solution, the next administration must be willing to work specifically toward the dismantling of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the removal of roadblocks and checkpoints. It must also be ready to demand that human rights for Palestinians, including the freedom of movement and education, are as important as Israeli security.

This requires political courage. The United States remains the only player that can talk tough to Israel, and back it up.

The next American partner in the peace process needs to give Palestinians hope - hope that negotiations will yield freedom from occupation. It is the lack of hope that leads many to believe that violence is the only option.

Sen. Obama delivered a significant speech in Berlin, just hours after arriving from Israel, in which he promised, if elected, to tear down the walls that divided citizens of the world from one another.

The next commander in chief, be it Sen. John McCain or Sen. Obama, can start by trying to tear down the wall in the West Bank, which is much larger than the one that once divided Berlin, but far more important for creating a peaceful, stable and democratic Middle East.

Yousef Munayyer is a special assistant to the president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and a doctoral student at the University of Maryland.


Bill B. said...

I wish to comment on the editorial by Yousef Munayyer, published this morning in the Chicago Tribune, titled: "New View on Mideast Needed."

It is one of the BEST commentaries and offers the best suggestions I've yet seen regarding the presidential campaign and US policy in the mid-east. I hope and pray that both McCain and Obama not only read it carefully, but work to implement the suggestions it contains. The heretofore narrow view of this administration regarding Israel has been disastrous not only for Palestinians in particular, but for US foreign policy in general.

Over and over again I struggle to see what our relationship with Israel has gained for us as a nation and as a world leader. I'm afraid my review consistently comes up with "very little." It has damaged our credibility not only in the Arab world, as Yousef points out in the editorial, but also here at home, among ourselves as US citizens.

How can I believe anymore that the US stands on the side of justice and self determination for the oppressed in the face of our position on the oft-promised support for a Palestinian state? All we have to show for it is empty rhetoric and duplicity. If the US TRULY wanted a fair and equitable settlement for the long suffering Palestinians, it would have happened YEARS ago. Instead, what we have had is empty rhetoric, no tangible improvement in the lives of Palestinians suffering repeated injustices for over half a century and the erosion of our place in the world as leaders for peace with justice.

Yousef's editorial masterfully points this out and challenges our government to live up to its rhetoric. I'm telling everyone I know to read this editorial if they want to see a small part of the price we have paid for our misguided and duplicitous policies regarding Israel and the Palestinians.

Thank you, Yousef for your clarity and courage!

Bill B.

Violet said...

A two state nation is not a solution such "solution" will never take place. Either all or nothing. I think in few decades we will have it all. That is what we should aim for.

Violet said...

A two state nation is not a solution such "solution" will never take place. Either all or nothing. I think in few decades we will have it all. That is what we should aim for.