CMEP Bulletin: Obama Outlines Peace Parameters

CMEP Bulletin: Obama Outlines Peace Parameters

High Noon in Washington

In a speech to the Knesset May 16, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu laid out principles for negotiations, offering to hand over parts of the West Bank to the Palestinians if they accepted his peace terms. The prime minister said that such a deal would include compromises on “parts of our homeland.”  However, he stated that such a deal would not include the right of return for Palestinian refugees to Israel, would keep West Bank Israeli settlement blocs intact, would involve long-term Israeli military presence along the Jordan River, and would keep all of Jerusalem as part of Israel.  

On Thursday, May 19, President Obama said in a nationally televised speech on the Middle East, “We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.” 

The president countered Prime Minister Netanyahu’s claim to an indefinite Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley saying, “The full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign, non-militarized state.  And the duration of this transition must be agreed, and the effectiveness of security arrangements must be demonstrated.” 

The president also acknowledged the challenge of the reconciliation agreement signed this month by Hamas and Fatah leaders. While noting that the agreement raises legitimate questions for Israel, he also called for Palestinian leadership to take responsibility for the implications of that agreement. He asked, “How can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist? … Palestinian leaders will have to provide a credible answer to that question.”  

What was clear in the president’s speech is that he intends to press for a return to negotiations and an agreement for peace. With a possible nod toward his own administration’s unsuccessful attempts at progress, he said,  “The international community is tired of an endless process that never produces an outcome.  The dream of a Jewish and democratic state cannot be fulfilled with permanent occupation.”

Obama met privately with Netanyahu for nearly two hours on Friday, May 19. Their remarks following the meeting demonstrated the fundamental differences in the two leaders’ positions on how to achieve peace.  The president will go on to address an AIPAC convention over the weekend, as will the prime minister. The end of this round of speech-making will come on Tuesday, May 24 when Netanyahu addresses a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress.

Click here to continue reading this CMEP Bulletin, including the following items:

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