Obama did not just decide to take on the settlements issue at this point without carefully thinking through the consequences and plotting his strategy to the end. While Bibi seems to be flustered and without a plan B (plan A being the US President and congress kisses his ass and with a wink and a nod let him do whatever he pleases in exchange for some meaningless 'concessions'). I am sure Obama already is several moves ahead of him. The same goes for the Arab governments and the Palestinian 'leadership'.
Obama has his eyes on the prize of peace and he has shown that he never starts something he can't finish. Bibi's governing coalition is expendable, it's his problem how he get's with the program and still hold's his government together.
The Neo-cons are about to get a lesson in the effective application of US power in the Middle-East after their incompetent and disastrous failure. If Obama succeeds (and I have learned not to bet against him) the Israeli and Palestinian people win. The extremists and the bankrupt venal political leadership on all sides that have prolonged this tragedy lose big time.
The Swat Valley is as much a part of Pakistan as Alabama is part of the US. That is not just semantics. In the latest go round Hamas responded to an Israeli military attack that broke the ceasefire. But the bigger picture underlying criminal activity by Hamas and Israel is Israel is using deadly force to enforce an illegal occupation, ethnic cleansing and coloinization of territories outside of Israel. Colonizing the west bank has nothing to do with the defense of Israel it is a raw illegal act of aggression.
The Taliban did for all intents and purposes attack us. The attack was planned and executed form their domain by groups under their protection. THe 'Afghan Arabs' were allied, hosted and protected by the Taliban. We are not sending American settlers to Afghanistan nor denying Afghanis statehood using Taliban aggression as an excuse. We should never have invaded Iraq but even Bush did not establish American settlements in Iraq.
I'm in shock that Obama has been so out front on this. He is showing a level of courage that has been absent for years in US politicians. The discourse on Israel is so twisted and controlled by the Israeli extreme right that it's been taken as a fact that establishing apartheid colonial outposts outside it's borders and supporting the religious fanatics that murdered an Israeli Prime Minister somehow was good for Israeli and US security.
Not only am I in shock but evidently Bibi is even more shocked then I that Obama and the congress didn't kiss his ass and give him a pass to do whatever he pleased. We are finally seeing some push back but so far it's pretty weak. Netanyahu won't let a rabid extremist like Lieberman anywhere near the US under these circumstances.
The Swat Valley is part of Pakistan. Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank are not part of Israel. Pakistan is not occupying the Swat valley they are dealing with armed violent Pakistani religious extremists in their own country.
If the Israeli government took on the armed violent fanatics in the Israeli settler movement that would be analogous to what is happening in Pakistan.
The most important element in fostering the spread of democracy is non interference in the political process of sovereign nations by the US and others. Americans are always pontificating about the inability of Latin Americans to develop democratic institutions when the US overthrew the oldest and most stable democracy in Latin America ( Chile ) and installed dictators and trained death squads all over the hemisphere.
We repeated this policy in Gaza when after demanding elections we tried to engineer a coup of the democratically elected government. This practice of 'protecting' our interests has brought us the Ayatollahs, Osama and a never ending stream of unintended consequences and blow back while making the world less stable, less secure, poorer and costing the lives of millions.
I don't think anyone should advocate for one state. That does not mean however it won't happen.
Emigration to the west is a lot easier for Israeli's then Palestinians and as time goes on a lot of young Israelis may find themselves identifying more with western democracies then the religious crazies who seem to be in the drivers seat in Israel. Israel was supposed to be a modern western democracy in a sea of backwards violent religious extremism. The 'hilltop youth' have about as much in common with more secular Israelis as does a Hamas militant. Netanyahu and company may be setting off a whole series of unpredictable unintended consequences.
I'm beginning to think that a result that none of the parties is working towards they may get by default. That is one state. It would be a bit ironic if the rejectionists on both sides who dreamed of one state purged of the other group may thanks to there actions both get half their wish. One state but not a Jewish one or a Muslim one.
I don't share your optimism. I don't think Obama is ready to risk what is needed to make momentous change and he may be right. With Palestinian civil society destroyed, the Palestinian government in shambles and Israel in the grasp of right wing rejectionists that's a tar pit with no exit for any US politician.
The Israeli's are living under the illusion that they are a great power and are still in full neo-con mode trying to project that power. The war with Hezbollah should have been a wake-up call. The myth of Israeli military invincibility and unstoppable power was dependent on being surrounded by inept, corrupt autocracies. They should not assume that their adversaries will be so accommodatingly incompetent in the future. It was an excellent psy-ops tool against a hostile Arab world but one should never start to believe one's own BS.
I believe that emigration is now exceeding immigration in Israel and a large number of Israeli young are contemplating leaving according to one 2007 poll I saw. Israel is hell bent on destroying it self. The armed religious fanatics are in the drivers seat and they are succeeding in making a 2 state solution an impossibility and incorporating a huge hostile population into a greater Israel that will eventually, as in South Africa assert majority rule.
It's not about what is fair or just. I'm sure the Arabs feel the very creation of Israel was unjust and unfair but Israel is a now a thriving functioning society and it's not going to do anything that will threaten it's survival. Israel needs to give up all settlements and live within it's borders and the Palestinians need to do the same in regards to the right of returning to Israel.
You can't have a Jewish state without a Palestinian one and you can't have a Palestinian state without a Jewish one. Giving up all the settlements would bring Israel to the brink of civil war and giving up the right of return will be a bitter pill for the Palestinians. But there is no other way to have 2 states. Palestinians who want to live in Palestine will have a Palestinian state to return to and Israeli settlers will have a Jewish one to return to. That's not going to be what they want but it's better then the alternative.
The problem is we demanded democratic elections in Gaza and when Hamas won we tried to engineer a coup d'etat. If Hamas get's elected then we negotiate with Hamas, if the Likud gets elected we deal with Likud. You can't demand democracy and then try and undue the results of the election by embargo, violence and military action.
The israeli's have done everything they can to destroy Palestinian civil society and the infrastructure and institutions of Palestinian government. Abbas has produced nothing but more of the same from Israel. So no surprise that the Palestinians will have a mountain to climb to form some kind of functioning government. But they have the right to do it without Israeli interference and free of Israeli occupation.
It is for the Palestinians to work out their government. There is no guarantee that Palestine will have a government that the Israeli's approve of or that Israel will have a government the Palestinians approve of. Israel has a peace treaty with Egypt and Jordan and neither is a western style democracy nor is any love lost between either state and Israel but they all recognize that peace is preferable to the alternative.
The Palestinians may have their hands full with extremist groups but Israel will be no better off internally. The fanatics in the settler movement already murdered one Israeli Prime Minister. They would be ready for a civil war if the government gave up the west bank.
I'm sure if Obama were to draw a line in the sand (and I don't know that he ever will) that the iron fist would be hidden inside a plush velvet glove. He is not given to chest thumping and macho rhetoric. Obama is a consummate politician and can be ruthless while looking to all the world like a choir boy. Those who have underestimated him have all regretted it.
Obama and Netanyahu agree on almost nothing (other then the fact that the security of Israel is non-negotiable). I'm not sure how Obama is going to overcome that.
I'd say after a process of engagement and discussion he should just say to the Israeli government: either grant the Palestinians full citizenship or accept the Arab peace plan minus the right of return. You can't have the Palestinian's land without the Palestinians. So choose: a Jewish state within the borders of Israel or a larger state where you may wind up a minority. You can't have your cake and eat it to and jeopardize US security while you continue the fantasy that you can.
We cannot dictate Israeli policy or actions but we can decide our own policy and what is in our interests. If the Israeli's are hell bent on continuing the policies of Bush Cheney and destroying their own future we are not obligated to follow them over the cliff and pay for the ride.
If Obama prepares the ground right and frames it properly with the American public he will have their support. Is Israel ready to go it alone without the US? AIPAC is already in full panic mode.
Based on the comments of Israeli government officials like the Defense Minister they seem arrogantly confident that they call the shots when it comes to American policy. One thing Obama needs to do whatever his short term goals are is instill some fear into Netanyahu and make it clear who is the Alpha dog in the relationship.
I agree that Obama is committed to making a two state solution and peace a reality. I would be surprised if he was ready right now to face the political consequences of confronting those determined to make sure it never happens. Not that he is not planning on doing just that at a time of his choosing.
You don't bring a knife to a gun fight and I'm not sure that he has a big enough array of weapons to engage his opposition right now. He will try and contain any further damage to the situation in Israel/Palestine as he prepares the ground.
This is just speculation based on his behavior with the issue of torture but I would be pleased to be proven wrong.
Don't hold your breath waiting for Obama to stand up to the Israeli right. He will demand (in private) that Netanyahu not do anything to force his hand, like bombing Iran. Other then that, just like dealing with war crimes in the Bush Administration he would rather focus on the economic crisis including health care and Afghanistan for now.
Now if he has some success in Afghanistan. If he were to capture Bin Laden for instance well then he'd roll right over Bibi, but right now he'll probably settle for some meaningless promises and guarantees they won't launch any large scale military actions and in return he'll make some meaningless promises of his own.
A full scale confrontation with AIPAC, with not just Republicans, but Democrats against him is more then he can handle right now. And Netanyahu would rather avoid a public clash so long as he can continue with the colonization and ethnic cleansing of the West Bank. Slowly making sure that the establishment of a Palestinian state will be impossible.