CMEP Bulletin: Peace Process Overshadowed

CMEP Bulletin: Peace Process Overshadowed

weekly policy update from Churches for Middle East Peace

This week the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) held their annual conference in Washington, DC and per usual, it was an opportunity for U.S. politicians to reaffirm their commitment to Israel. The conference also gave Israeli leaders a chance to present their case to a sympathetic U.S. audience. Last year, many of the major speeches at the conference responded to President Obama’s speech just days before and focused on the “indefensible” 1967 borders and the meaning of “land swaps.”

At this year’s conference, the Israeli Palestinian conflict was largely absent from the discussion. Iran, the country’s nuclear ambitions, and the potential for military action dominated the agenda and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seemed to be just an annoying blip on the radar.

President Barack Obama spoke to AIPAC conference attendees on Sunday morning, before notably the largest conference AIPAC has ever had.  There was likely hope among those gathered that the president would make clear the U.S. willingness to take military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities. In his speech, President Obama stated that, “no Israeli government can tolerate a nuclear weapon in the hands of a regime that denies the Holocaust, threatens to wipe Israel off the map, and sponsors terrorist groups committed to Israel’s destruction.” He reiterated that he “will take no options off the table.”

In perhaps his strongest language yet, President Obama offered a clear warning that military options are on the table. “Iran’s leaders should understand that I do not have a policy of containment. I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. And as I have made clear time and again during the course of my presidency, I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests.”

President Obama, who in the same venue a year ago said, “[N]o matter how hard it may be to start meaningful negotiations under current circumstances, we must acknowledge that a failure to try is not an option.  The status quo is unsustainable,” this year mentioned the Palestinians only five times. He making the argument for seeking peace, he emphasized the U.S.-Israel bond that was reflected in the rest of his remarks. He said, “I believe that peace with the Palestinians is consistent with Israel’s founding values because of our shared belief in self-determination, and because Israel’s place as a Jewish and democratic state must be protected.”

Following the president’s speech, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a statement saying, “I very much appreciated the fact that President Obama reiterated his position that Iran must not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons and that all options are on the table. I also appreciated the fact that he made clear that when it comes to a nuclear armed Iran, containment is simply not an option, and equally in my judgment, perhaps most important of all, I appreciated the fact that he said that Israel must be able to defend itself, by itself, against any threat.”

The two leaders met privately in the Oval Office for two hours and then offered brief formulaic statements. President Obama stated the bond between Israel and the U.S. is “unbreakable” and “rock-solid.” Prime Minister Netanyahu told the assembled reporters, “if there’s one thing that stands out clearly in the Middle East today, it’s that Israel and America stand together.”

Monday evening, Prime Minister Netanyahu addressed the attendees and focused his entire speech on Iran. The prime minister emphasized the dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran and insisted, “Israel must always reserve the right to defend itself.”

Click here to read the full CMEP Bulletin, including the following items:

  • AIPAC responses
  • Christian leaders speak out on war with Iran
  • CMEP Executive Director meets with Palestinian negotiator
  • International Women’s Day
  • Gaza exports to West Bank resume…for a day
  • Training for the 2012 Olympics