Obama delivers a long-promised speech this week in Cairo. Many in the Muslim world will be listening for some substantive movement in the American brokering of the long-stalled "peace process" between Israel and the Palestinians. Given the issues, given the political realities on both sides, what kind of substantive move can Obama initiate in such a speech now>
Here's a move Obama could make that might break the log-jam, raise American credibility, put worthwhile pressure on both parties, and conceivably create some momentum for real progress toward the two-state solution the world in general sees as the best future.
Obama should say:
We are committed to the survival of Israel as a Jewish state, in peace and security, as part of a two-state solution. We also think that, as the dominant party in the present circumstances, Israel should make the first move to get things moving toward a peaceful resolution of the crisis.
We call upon Israel to stop all settlement activity, all construction having to do with the settlements, for a DEFINED PERIOD. Settlements have long been seen as an "obstacle to peace," and they are that now. They are also not one of the elements in the conflict on which the very survival of Israel depends, so it is a concession that does not increase Israeli vulnerability.
The cessation for a DEFINED PERIOD also minimizes the costs of this concession, so that if the Palestinians do not likewise make meaningful movement toward a just and lasting peace, Israel's commitment to ban construction on the settlements will expire.
<blockquote>[What should be the Palestinians' corresponding, subsequent move? I am not sure. The key idea here is should be that the settlement construction stop, that it be stopped for a minimum defined period, and that its continuation be predicated on the Palestinians making SOME appropriate first step on their side. And here's one possible such move.] </blockquote>
What I call upon the Palestinians to do --before the end of that defined period-- is for both of the Palestinian political parties --both Fatah and Hamas-- to sign a document confirming that they accept Israel's right to a future as a sovereign Jewish nation in Palestine as part of a two-state solution, living at peace with a Palestinian state also in Palestine, and affirming that this is the goal they pledge to work toward.
If the Palestinian parties fail to sign such a confirmation of Israel's right to exist as part of a two-state solution, then the ban on settlements would expire. We'd be back to where we are today.
But if the Palestinian parties do fulfill that requirement, then the ban on settlement construction would be continued, and the effort to move further toward peace can proceed from there.
[It would be good to have a second sequence of moves in mind. But the opening move is here: Obama calls upon Israel (with the threat of the use of American financial leverage on Israel implicit, not explicit) to take a measure important to the Palestinians, and not endangering to Israel, and limited in duration; the Palestinians get the means put into their own hands of extending that duration, but are compelled to make some move important to the Israelis to do so. Moral pressure on each side to make their respective moves should be considerable. If such opening moves can get made, perhaps the dynamics of the situation can be transformed, and momentum toward peace --toward the form of the peace that pretty much the whole world as called for-- might begin to carry things forward.] </blockquote>