published Friday, May 20th, 2011

Prodding Israel, Obama embraces Palestine borders

By BEN FELLER

AP White House Correspondent

WASHINGTON — Exasperated by stalled Middle East peace talks in a season of tumultuous change, President Barack Obama jolted close ally Israel Thursday by embracing the Palestinians’ terms for drawing the borders of their new nation next door. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel rejected the idea as “indefensible” on the eve of his vital White House meeting with Obama.

The U.S. president said that an independent Palestine should be based on 1967 borders — before the Six Day War in which Israel occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza — as adjusted by possible land swaps agreed upon by both sides. He said Israel can never live in true peace as a Jewish state if it insists on “permanent occupation.”

Obama’s effort to salvage a peace effort that is in shambles was a major change in tactics for a president running out of patience and reasons to be subtle. The Israeli-Palestinian stalemate has remained immune to the popular uprisings and historic drives for freedom that have swept much of the region.

He pushed both sides to accept his starting point — borders for Palestine, security for Israel — and get back to solving a deadlock “that has grinded on and on and on.”

In a sweeping review of recent uprisings and authoritarian crackdowns across the Arab world, Obama was also unsparing in his words for the Palestinian leadership, repudiating its pursuit of unilateral statehood through the United Nations and questioning its alliance with a Hamas faction bent on Israel’s destruction.

“At a time when the people of the Middle East and North Africa are casting off the burdens of the past, the drive for a lasting peace that ends the conflict and resolves all claims is more urgent than ever,” Obama said, playing the rapid change of the past six months against a standoff that has stymied the Mideast for decades.

More broadly, before a polite diplomatic audience at the State Department, Obama sought to clarify the U.S. role toward a part of the world undergoing a transformation. He implored the American people to see that it is worth devoting U.S. might and money to help stabilize a dangerous region and help people fighting for freedom.

“There must be no doubt that the United States of America welcomes change that advances self-determination and opportunity,” the president said. “Yes, there will be perils that accompany this moment of promise. But after decades of accepting the world as it is in the region, we have a chance to pursue the world as it should be.”

It was Obama’s explicit endorsement of the 1967 borders that changed the dynamic.

The U.S., the international community and even past Israeli governments have endorsed the idea of an agreement based on the 1967 lines, but Obama’s new emphasis was a clear prodding for Israel to act.

The way Obama put it means the U.S. now accepts 1967 lines, with land swaps, as the basis for the borders of a Palestinian state — and not just that such a result would be the desired outcome of negotiations, as had been the U.S. stand.

The United States insists, too, that Israel to end up with a safe, secure state without fear of attack from Palestinians.

In a cool statement released late Thursday in Jerusalem, Netanyahu rejected a full withdrawal from the West Bank, saying the 1967 lines would leave major Jewish settlements outside Israel. It was unclear whether Obama’s stand would be enough to persuade the Palestinians to drop their push for U.N. recognition of their statehood.

In the run-up to the president’s speech, the White House had sought to downplay the role of the Mideast peace standoff in his address, emphasizing instead other elements such as his proposed financial support for Egypt and Tunisia, two nations that have risen up and embraced democracy. But the address only served to underscore how central the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is to the stability of the whole region and the political interests of the United States

Obama sought to give perspective to a five-month period in which thousands have died in protests for human rights, two countries’ leaders have been toppled, others are teetering, the U.S. has been drawn into an armed conflict in Libya and America has launched a stunning, successful mission to find and kill Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. The president tried to minimize bin Laden’s reach even in death, saying his al-Qaida vision of destruction had already been deemed a “dead end” by those wanting a better life.

Moving country by country, Obama offered his toughest words yet for Syrian President Bashar Assad, in whom the U.S. has lost hope as a reformer given his government’s bloody crackdown on dissidents. Obama did not call for Assad to step down but did accuse him of murdering his people. “The Syrian people have shown their courage in demanding a transition,” Obama said. “President Assad now has a choice: He can lead that transition or get out of the way.”

One 24-year-old Syrian said the U.S. president was too late.

“It’s too bad hundreds of people died before he made the speech,” said Mustafa, who fled the coastal town of Banias, which has seen some of the biggest protests in recent weeks, and who did not give his surname for fear of reprisals. “I think it’s too late for Assad to lead a peaceful transition to democracy after all that happened.”

In seizing his own Mideast moment, Obama offered a speech that was in some ways notable for what he did not mention.

While critical of autocracy throughout the Mideast, he failed to mention the region’s largest, richest and arguably most repressive nation, U.S. ally Saudi Arabia. Nor did he mention Jordan, a staunch U.S. ally that has a peace deal with Israel. Also left out was the United Arab Emirates, the wealthy, pro-American collection of mini-states on the Persian Gulf.

On the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, he raised the question of Hamas but did not seek to answer it. A proposed unity Palestinian government would pair the Fatah-dominated administration in the West Bank and the Gaza-run Hamas, which is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. and seeks to destroy Israel.

“How can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist?” Obama asked. “In the weeks and months to come, Palestinian leaders will have to provide a credible answer to that question.”

Obama also conceded that borders were just a start. He had no blueprint for resolving enormous conflicts over the status of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees.

And he gave little attention to Iran, where U.S. attempts at outreach have gone nowhere.

On Yemen, a key partner in the U.S. fight against al-Qaida, Obama called on President Ali Abdullah Saleh to keep his commitment to transfer power. On Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, Obama said the only way forward is dialogue between the government and opposition, “and you can’t have a real dialogue when parts of the peaceful opposition are in jail.”

———

Associated Press writers Matthew Lee and Erica Werner in Washington, Dan Perry and Josef Federman in Jerusalem, Karin Laub in Ramallah and Robert Reid in Cairo contributed to this report.

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JustJames said...

The only solution for a lasting piece is absolute democratic process (that we Americans cherish so passionately) for the entire territory in question, otherwise, the peace will not last. All people who lived there without regard to religion, race, etc. should vote on how they would like their one country to be run. I favor one state solution because two states would only attempt to “legalize” Zionist occupation that will be remembered in history until it is corrected by future large scale conflicts, so no lasting peace will result. The only issue with the fair democratic process is what to do with all manipulated Jewish people who the Zionist regime imported for decades to increase the Jewish population from around 100,000 to over 5 Million since the start of the occupation. This is obviously an attempt to unjustly manipulate any future democratic process by forcefully increasing the occupier’s population at the expense of others. Any compromise other than the absolute fair democratic process with no manipulated population will be temporary with terrible conflicts looming to correct it in the future. The truth is that the Zionist regime will not accept any democratic process even if the manipulated Jewish population is included because it cannot exist as a democratic country as Zionists will be outvoted by all others who live there (Zionists were in an infinite minority before the occupation). The Zionist regime can only temporarily exist through the force of its arms as a one people country where only select ones can vote and where different laws apply to different people.
The world must stand up against the Zionist regime by cutting all diplomatic and economic relations with it. Many countries have already stopped all relations with the Zionist regime and others are in the process of doing the same. We Americans need to completely distance ourselves from this oppressive regime through urging our state representatives and senators to do what the rest of the world is doing.

May 22, 2011 at 1:52 p.m.
AlexaB said...

If it is ever reached, the current and any other artificial “peace agreement” will be illegitimate before it is ever signed because (1) all people living in Palestine regardless of religion, race, origin, etc. (hereinafter “All People of Palestine”) were never given a choice on how they want their land to be governed, and (2) all contracts signed under duress are null and void. The biggest problem in Palestine is that the Zionist regime never offered a choice to All People of Palestine on how they want to govern their land because the Zionist regime cannot exist as a democratic entity. If there was ever any democratic process in Palestine, Zionists would have been outvoted and the Zionist regime would have never existed. That is why the Zionist regime is the occupier because it does not offer choice (i.e. democracy), but instead imposes its regime (i.e. occupies). Imagine if Russians would simply occupy a town in the U.S. where they are in significant numbers and attempt to create a Russian state there without giving the rest of the Americans living there a choice. Imagine then if they would try to institute a “peace agreement” that would attempt to legitimize their occupation. The “peace agreement” would logically and legally be illegitimate because the Americans were not given a choice.

Under all countries’ laws, any contract is null and void if it is signed under duress. The current Palestine “peace agreement” process reminds me of The Godfather movie where the mafia boss (i.e. the Zionist regime) made a guy “an offer he could not refuse” by placing a gun (i.e. Zionist conventional and nuclear arsenal) to his head and making him sign the contract. Like the mafia boss’ offer, any “peace agreement” other than the choice for All People of Palestine is a crime, and the contract is legally null and void.

The bottom line is that All People of Palestine never wanted to divide their land into artificial two states the way the occupation and this “peace agreement” attempt to divide it. From the beginning of the Zionist regime to its unavoidable end, All People of Palestine and the region never wanted the Zionist regime and they do not want it even more after all the atrocities the Zionist regime committed. I just cannot believe how the Zionist regime can be so ignorant to think that this or any other “peace agreement” that does not allow people to choose how they want to be governed will last and ensure its people’s survival. The Zionist regime fails to realize that no matter if it succeeds in muscling this “peace agreement” by unspeakable historic coercion tens of millions of moral people around the world will oppose it until it is corrected, and until justice and free choice prevail. Also, ever increasing number of Jewish people are realizing that Zionism is becoming a destructive force for them and are leading the global resistance to it.

May 22, 2011 at 2:05 p.m.
FoxGee said...

The main Zionist claim is that they have a supreme right to some of Palestinian territory because they lived there thousands of years ago. Let’s examine the core and real nature of this claim. Firstly, this claim is mistaken and selfish in its core concept because Zionists fail to recognize that history is a continuum and that there were other people living in majority in Palestine before the Jews and also after the Jews. Zionists simply cut history at a convenient point for them and claim ancestral ties to the land as of that convenient point. Secondly, whatever the claim, it is beyond absurd to try to shape modern world based on thousands of years old maps. Imagine if the rest of the world would be reshaped by who was on the land thousands of years ago. It would cause horrific wars, countless refugees, and unimaginable human suffering, exactly what is happening in Palestine. Thirdly and most disturbing, Zionist goal was to establish a Jewish state wherever possible. Palestine may have been a preference, but Palestine was not the only location that Zionists planned as their state in modern times. Another location was Argentina where Jews have been migrating for hundreds of years for the purpose of establishing a state. Also, locations in Europe were on the list and that’s why the Catholic Church was killing/expelling Jews since Roman times (read the history of the Holly Inquisition). Whatever the location, Zionist plan was to simply occupy the people living on the land even if that would mean imposing a regime worst than Nazi Germany’s from which they escaped. And Zionists would just use a different ideological coloring than the one used in Palestine in the attempt to rationalize the occupation.

In conclusion, the main claim on which the Zionist regime is built in Palestine is erroneous, selfish, and a lie. I am categorically against generalizing, and recognize that many Jews are against the crimes the Zionist regime is committing and that many Jews are leading the global resistance to it. They should be proud.

May 22, 2011 at 2:17 p.m.
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