President Barack Obama tried to get the Middle East peace process on track with a questionable political gambit. By doing so, he created confusion in the region, especially with the Palestinian conflict. Obama presumably wants to defend Israel, as former presidents did, but his comments this past week could be interpreted as a policy change that will elevate Palestinian interests.
Why did he choose this particular moment to insert himself into the peace process? Yemen, Egypt, Syria, Iran, Tunisia, and Palestine are currently experiencing some level of unrest. Despots were overthrown, and will continue to be deposed; monarchies could also eventually fall. How can there be peace in Palestine when there is so much conflict elsewhere in the Middle East?
During the meeting between Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the president proposed that the Israeli-Palestinian borders be based on those that existed before the 1967 Six Day War. The proposition astounded many because its implementation would make Israel vulnerable to terrorist attacks. Netanyahu claimed those lines were militarily “indefensible.” Israelis and Jews around the world notice Obama's aggressive stance and its implications. The U.S. alliance with Israel, perhaps our strongest and most important, could weaken.
The meeting was a diplomatic disaster in the eyes of those concerned about Israel's security. The president must have known Netanyahu would not accept his proposal, so why even present it? U.S. policy-makers' persistent desires to lead and be involved in international events is becoming a thorn in the side of many Americans, as too many lives and dollars are being wasted on fruitless expeditions. Frankly, American diplomacy makes many conflicts even more complicated and difficult to resolve.
Every U.S. president since 1967 made the attempt to create a roadmap for peace in the region, and every one failed. You may wonder why; the answer lies in the fact that Arabs will never accept the existence of an Israeli state. Israel controls some of the most important religious places, an obstacle that can never be resolved.
The Middle East is one of the most strategically important areas in the world because of its rich oil reserves. And yet, the countries in the region are governed in the most primitive fashion. Some are ruled by leaders with an iron fist; these nations have been most affected by democratic protests. Some are ruled by monarchs who retain power by giving their citizens a cost-free lifestyle. Others are ruled by radical religious sects, most notably Iran. All have, to varying degrees, religious influences to contend with. And finally, the universal hatred of western cultures, particularly the U.S., is a huge factor. Radical Middle Eastern leaders' rhetoric could be easily taken as an assault on the American way of life, our military power, and our recent invasion and occupation of Arab territory.
Perhaps the key to improving the chances of peace in the region is the immediate withdrawal of American troops. Civil war is inevitable, so why delay it by risking more American lives? More importantly, it would be beneficial if Obama steered clear until he and his advisors develop a feasible peace plan.
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