CMEP Bulletin: What Does a Second Term Mean for Peace?
CMEP’s weekly news update
Post-US election punditry
Now that the pundits can stop pouring over polls and statistical models, many are tackling an even harder task: prognosticating the future of the peace process in Obama’s second term and providing advice for how he should proceed.
In the United States, President Obama received 70 percent of the Jewish vote, down only slightly from his 2008 levels. Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s efforts to erode their support for the incumbent president proved ineffective. David Harris, president and CEO of the National Jewish Demographic Council told Politico, “The powerful support given to the president today by American Jews shows that the more than $150 million campaign undertaken by Republicans to woo Jewish voters with negative advertising, scare tactics, and outright lies simply did not work.”
American Jewish groups advocating for a two-state solution took the opportunity to urge President Obama to continue working for peace. Americans for Peace issued a statement of congratulations to the president adding that:
“Failure to strike an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal in the coming four years could well mean the loss of the two-state solution, opening the door for endemic instability, violence, and the loss of Israel’s unique character as both a democracy and a Jewish state…Your second term in office offers an historic opportunity to push for Israeli-Palestinian peace. We urge you to resolutely pursue this goal, and we pledge to work indefatigably to mobilize American friends of Israel in support of your efforts.”
The New York Times reports that Netanyahu “was widely perceived in Israel and the United States as having supported the Republican challenger, Mitt Romney.” To sum up most observers conclusions, Netanyahu’s blunt Interior Minister from Shas, Eli Yishai, stated, “This is probably not a very good morning for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”
The Washington Post commented that, “Obama’s call in May 2011 for a peace agreement with the Palestinians based on Israel’s 1967 borders got an icy reception from Netanyahu, who lectured Obama on the subject in the Oval Office. The two had clashed earlier over Israel’s settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.”
With Israeli elections now scheduled for January, Netanyahu’s critics saw Obama’s victory as an opportunity. The Guardian says:
But the result of the US contest may shape Israel’s own election by encouraging the formation of a new centrist party or block, led by the former prime minister Ehud Olmert and former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, which would make the dysfunctional relationship between Netanyahu and Obama, and consequent threat to the “special relationship,” a key plank of its campaign. Such a move could upset the electoral apple cart in Israel, and change the paradigm regarding both Iran and the Palestinians.
Olmert told a crowd of U.S. Jewish leaders November 7 that, “what Netanyahu did in the last few months raises the question whether or not our prime minister has a friend in the White House.” Some Israelis are concerned that this poor relationship will make the U.S. go easy on the Palestinian Authority for seeking statehood in the UN.
Haaretz writer Yossi Sarid begged for forgiveness on behalf of the Israeli people, writing, “No American president before you had ever showered us with so much that was good and necessary. In an aggravating demonstration of ingratitude, you were depicted here as an enemy…It’s a lousy national characteristic, which obligates us to apologize…You must continue what you tried to do at the beginning of your term. Then you didn’t succeed, but now we’re telling you: Finish it. For our sake, finish it.” Others had a bit more fun with the situation, with the image on the right going viral on Facebook among Israelis (translation from Hebrew below).
The Arab media seemed relieved about the outcome, but not optimistic about any groundbreaking changes in the second term. Randa Habib, a journalist from Jordan said, “There’s a sense of relief in the Middle East. People feel Obama understands the region at a much higher level than Romney, but his reelection does not have the great excitement of four years ago.”Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas expressed his desire to work with Obama to achieve a two-state solution with mutual respect between Israelis and Palestinians. Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat hoped that Obama would now support the Palestinians’ attempt to become a non-member state in the UN this month, a move that is strongly opposed by Israel. He said, “Obama must stop the policy of settlements and other Israeli violations and not the Palestinian bid at the UN.”
On Monday November 5, the Israeli government has announced plans to move forward with the construction of 1,214 homes in the West Bank. Americans for Peace Now’s Lara Friedman finds the timing of the announcement quitesuspect, writing, “it is worth remembering that Netanyahu has a long and storied history of politically timed settlement announcements during President Obama’s time in office.”
Recent weeks have seen an upsurge of rockets from Gaza targeted on communities in Israel. Israelis from across southern Israel protested in Tel Aviv over government inaction against the rocketattacks. One resident said, “Every Qassam [rocket], even if it hits an open area, bears great emotional damage.” More than 150 rockets were fired from Gaza in October.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey said on Friday that he planned to visit the Gaza Strip soon, a move that could enhance the legitimacy of the Hamas-controlled Gaza government and antagonize both the Palestinian Authority and Israel. A Foreign Ministry official later said that the prime minister was simply expressing an “intention,” and that he wanted to visit “someday.”
B’Tselem’s recent newsletter includes valuable information on its recent report, “Arrested Development” that examines the long-term implications of the separation barrier.