Bird’s-Eye: Being optimistic about the chances of peace in the Middle East may seem exceedingly delusional… and yet, a number of elements are coming together that seem (gasp!) positive. Roger Cohen has a fascinating article in this week’s NYT on reasons for hope, and Richard Silverstein in Tikun Olam does as well. In both Israel and Palestine there is increasing support for a one-state solution, which may push others to take steps towards a two-state solution.
* Beating The Mideast’s Black Hole Roger Cohen, New York Times
My understanding is that proximity talks will start again next month, with Mitchell’s team shuttling between the sides. …But that’s not the reason for my improved mood: It’s hard to celebrate proximity talks when Palestinians and Israelis have often held direct talks. No, I detect three developments. The first is Obama. The second is Fayyad. The third is what Danny Ayalon, the deputy Israeli foreign minister, called “the sugar-coated poison pill” of the Israeli status quo. I’ll take them in order.
Last week, a letter from President Barack Obama was conveyed to Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president. In it, I understand, Obama spoke of his very strong commitment — unprecedented commitment — to a two-state peace and said that if Israel seriously undermines trust between the two parties, the United States will not stand in the way of a United Nations resolution condemning that.
* Obama Getting Tough on Israel or Just More Words? Richard Silverstein, Tikun Olam
Here’s how the Times reported it:
It was just a phrase at the end of President Obama’s news conference on Tuesday, but it was a stark reminder of a far-reaching shift in how the United States views the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and how aggressively it might push for a peace agreement….Mr. Obama said conflicts like the one in the Middle East ended up “costing us significantly in terms of both blood and treasure” — drawing an explicit link between the Israeli-Palestinian strife and the safety of American soldiers as they battle Islamic extremism and terrorism in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
When I first read … the ideas in the last paragraph of the quotation above, I knew Obama had a winner. There is no argument stronger than a national security argument and what was so powerful and persuasive about this one was that it took the ground away from the Israel lobby. If American boys are facing down the wrath of Islamic militants at least partially because of the latter’s frustration at the injustice of the Occupation and suffering of the Palestinian people–this is an idea that will resonate with the American people even more than the idea that Israel and the U.S. have “shared values” or Israel is “the only democracy in the Middle East.” Body bags trump “common values” every time.
* One State Solution Gains Ground Amongst Palestinians Ma’an News Agency
Support for a one-state solution is the highest it has ever been, a new poll by the Jerusalem Media and Communication Centre released on Wednesday indicated…. Nearly 34 percent of respondents favored a binational state in all of historic Palestine over the two-state solution, which only 43.9 percent supported, the JMCC poll found.
* Israel official: Accepting Palestinians into Israel better than two states – Haaretz
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said Thursday that he would rather accept Palestinians as Israeli citizens than divide Israel and the West Bank in a future two-state peace solution…. Rivlin said that he did not see any point of Israel signing a peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority as he did not believe PA President Mahmoud Abbas “could deliver the goods.”
Referring to the possibility that such an agreement could be reached, Rivlin said: I would rather Palestinians as citizens of this country over dividing the land up.” Late last year, Rivlin said in a Jerusalem address that Israel’s Arab population was “an inseparable part of this country. It is a group with a highly defined shared national identity, and which will forever be, as a collective, an important and integral part of Israeli society.”