This week President Obama will take the first overseas trip of his second term; it will be the first time since taking office he has visited Israel. Many of us maintain that only the United States has the power to break the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate. We therefore hope his visit will present more than just the gesture of “friendship and strong partnership” Netanyahu has referred to, and will be followed by a serious diplomatic American initiative and a sustainable peace plan.
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman suggests that during his visit, Obama should ask Israeli leaders and the Israeli public several questions, two of which I include here:
1. Given the relentless settlement drive in the West Bank, how can Israel avoid ending up there forever — ruling over 2.5 million Palestinians with a colonial-like administration that can only undermine Israel as a Jewish democracy and delegitimize Israel in the world community?
2. What is your long-term strategy? Do you even have one?
The Israeli right continues to argue that a reasonable, peaceful two-state solution is not possible, and that Israel should focus instead on maximizing its military advantage, developing its economy, and extending its control over contiguous territory. I would argue, as many other Israelis do, that the ongoing occupation of the territories is not an option. Ruling over 2.5 million Palestinians is an obstacle to peace, a security liability, an economic drain, and a terrible moral burden.
Obama’s visit may be the window of opportunity for America to propose a peace plan that enlists wider regional and world powers, all of whom have a stake in resolving the conflict. And we should support him.