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Nov 29, 2012 / 3 notes

Crisis in Gaza and U.N. vote show it’s time for Obama administration to get to work on negotiations

by Marc Sabbagh

Renewed violence between Israel and Hamas in Gaza should not come as a surprise given the lack of U.S. attention on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in recent years. While a fragile ceasefire agreement is now in effect, this short-term band aid should not overshadow the urgent need for the United States to facilitate renewed dialogue and a comprehensive peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians. Combined with the Palestinian vote for U.N. recognition expected to pass this afternoon, the window of opportunity to make any progress on the issue is narrowing.

President Obama’s first term started out with a firm demand that the Israeli government halt settlement building in the West Bank, but the administration proved unwilling to challenge Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after his government’s intransigence. Every year thereafter, the administration’s policies and public statements backtracked and shied away from serious involvement: in 2010 President Obama tried to regain ground by calling the U.S.-Israeli bond “unbreakable”; in his 2011 U.N. address he criticized the Palestinian Authority’s bid for U.N. recognition; and in 2012 controversy erupted when he did not meet with any world leaders at the U.N. summit. Even now, after the election, the State Department said they were not looking to engage on the issue anytime soon.

The recent violence between Israel and Hamas in Gaza shows the fallout that occurs when the U.S. disengages. The presidential election put numerous important issues involving our country on hold as the world kept spinning – particularly in the Arab world.  Now, with the election over, it is time for the Obama administration to truly reengage and take charge on the peace process.

The administration should put a proposal on the table that can be examined, discussed and redeveloped to keep negotiations going and at least create small, productive steps that could lead to lasting peace in the region. There are numerous studies that can serve as a framework for a territorial agreement. The regional goals of the Madrid Peace Conference in 1991 can also provide important lessons for multilateral negotiations on concerns facing the broader Arab world. 

There is great value in supporting direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations if both sides’ preconditions for such talks are managed effectively to ensure security cooperation and the promotion of Palestinian institution-building and economic development. Serious peace talks would limit the negative effects of power-sharing between Fatah and Hamas in the Palestinian territories, create an alternative for the Palestinian push for U.N. recognition (a move that may potentially lead to war crime suits against Israel at the International Criminal Court), and provide a legitimate path for Palestinian territorial integrity after the vote.

A resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict constitutes a fundamental American national security interest and prospects for peace diminish every day negotiations are put on hold. President Morsi’s recent power grab in Egypt demonstrates the country’s unpredictable new government, one which could someday revive tensions over the Sinai Peninsula. Despite the humanitarian tragedy in Syria, regime change does not appear to be desired by the Israeli government, which fears another power vacuum in the north. New protests in Jordan, the recent assassination of a top intelligence minister in Lebanon, and Hezbollah’s leader’s comments on destroying Israel in the event of an attack on Lebanon prove that Israel’s neighbors, and the actors within them, lack stability.

It is in both the Israelis and the Palestinians interests to resume negotiations for a two-state solution. The value of a lasting peace goes beyond the small, historic strip of land on the Mediterranean.

Lack of political will of the Israeli and Palestinian governments as well as the current realities of the Arab uprisings and Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons make the environment for substantive negotiations very difficult. The conflict has been manipulated through heightened rhetoric from U.S. candidates during the election, ineffectual policies and safeguards by U.S. incumbents in the past, and provocations and violence by Israeli and Palestinian governments and authorities. To overcome the impasse, it takes political will, risk, and boldness for leaders on all sides to commit to concrete policymaking.

The recent violence shows that it’s time to get to work. President Obama does not have to campaign anymore. There is no need for political posturing or election strategies aimed at gathering enough support to win another round. The U.S. can revive its position as the “honest broker” in the region if the administration turns its attention back to the peace process. A U.N. vote will not be enough to change the realities on the ground. Only direct negotiations and a comprehensive solution can do that. 

Jul 29, 2012
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Aug 17, 2011

His Anger Is a Start

by The New York Times

Faced with a divided Congress and an economy in desperate straits, President Obama tried bargaining with Republicans, he tried adopting some of their ideas and he pleaded with them for reasonable policies to help stave off disaster. For his efforts, he got nothing but a cold shoulder and the country got a credit downgrade.

Now, on a bus tour in the Midwest, he is bitterly pointing the finger at his opponents for their refusal to consider any new revenues to tackle the deficit and their insistence on deep near-term spending cuts that will only cause more economic pain. His anger is long overdue. But it would be much more effective if he combined it with strong ideas of his own for how to fix the economy, rather than the thin agenda he is now promoting.

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Aug 15, 2011

Why Turkey Holds the Key to the Regional Power Game on Syria

by Tony Karon

As the Assad regime on Sunday escalated its brutal crackdown by sending gunboats to shell the coastal city of Latakia, yet the rebellion shows no sign of abating despite at least 1,700 deaths so far, Syria’s fate may come to rest less in the hands of its own people, than in the corridors of power in neighboring and more distant capitals.

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Aug 3, 2011 / 2 notes

one year from now

the united states’ economy will still be in horrible condition. the country will be on the verge of a presidential election, and the candidates will be debating the important issues for the upcoming four years. president obama, when discussing the state of the economy, will blame the republicans for refusing to raise taxes and negotiate a full compromise during the debt ceiling debates of the previous summer, which he will say did not allow the economy to fully recover. his supporters will nod their heads in agreement, blindly believing his eloquent words that the republicans (those uneducated, uninformed fanatics) are at fault.

meanwhile, i will be shaking my head, because i know that while both sides may be to blame, it was not the republicans, but obama himself who failed to be a good negotiator, a good leader, and a good president at the time his party needed him most.

one year from now. we’ll see.

Aug 2, 2011

Maybe Washington Needs More Craziness

by Nassir Ghaemi

IF President Obama stumbled in his handling of the debt crisis, in my view, it was because he is too normal: too rational, willing to compromise, a rule-follower, conventionally wise. In contrast, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who succeeded with a worse debt crisis, had a mentally abnormal personality, characterized by mild manic symptoms.

The difference between the two leaders may exemplify a general rule, the inverse law of sanity: mentally healthy leaders, successful in quiet and prosperous times, often fail in times of crisis; in contrast, our greatest crisis leaders frequently are mentally abnormal, even mentally ill.

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Aug 2, 2011

Escalating Violence in Syria Paralyzes the West

by Michael Young

syria violence

Washington and NATO rationalized its bombing of Libya on humanitarian grounds. Then why can’t anyone muster a threat against Syria?

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this indictment’s an important milestone, and we call on the government of lebanon to continue to meet its obligations under international law to support the special tribunal.
mark c. toner, deputy spokesperson for the united states state department
Jul 30, 2011 / 5 notes
Jul 28, 2011

Obama Should Stop Being Reasonable

by Michael Tomasky

Obama Debt

With the U.S. government on the edge of default, Michael Tomasky asks why President Obama won’t do what he needs to do and raise the debt ceiling unilaterally.

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Jul 23, 2011 / 1 note

America’s attempted Quartet sophistry

by Daniel Levy

As more information seeps out from the Quartet principals meeting held in Washington on July 11, it becomes harder not to reach the conclusion that American policy on Israel-Palestine is now being driven almost exclusively by a desire to prevent any possible U.N. vote on the matter in the Autumn. 

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