Nov 15 2010
Amir Taheri, NY POST
This slogan, in English, appears on a poster and other products produced by the Palestinian Hamas movement (Listed as a terrorist group by the US government) and put on sale in Gaza. Yesterday, it adorned the front pages of several leading Arab dailies.
While President Obama’s Middle East policy has alienated many Israel supporters, he seems to be generating quite a fan base in the Hamas-controlled Gaza strip. Posters, mugs and other products plastered with doctored photos of Obama in Palestinian garb have recently been filling the shelves of gift shops in the Palestinian territory.
That the most radical Palestinian faction has declared its love for the president may be bad news for the stalled Middle East peace talks, which Obama has promised to help restart before the end of the year.
According to its charter, Hamas wants to eliminate Israel and to replace it with a single Palestinian state covering the territory of the Jewish state and the territories it occupied in 1967.
Iran, Libya and a range of radical Islamist movements, including al Qaeda, support Hamas’ policy, sometimes known as the “one-state solution.” But Obama has said he supports President George W. Bush’s two-state policy.
If Hamas’ declaration of love for Obama is based on a misunderstanding, the problem may lie in Obama’s ambiguous approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
When Bush said he wanted a two-state solution, he saw the realities on the ground as the starting point. Obama and his special emissary, George Mitchell, however, have talked about a return to the pre-1967 “borders” as demanded by several UN resolutions.
But there were no borders in 1967 — only cease-fire lines drawn at the end of the 1948 war. And there was no Palestine to have any borders — the cease-fire lines separated Israel on the one hand from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria on the other. Indeed, a return to those cease-fire lines would be tantamount to recreating a situation that had already led to two wars.
Obama also drops hints that he means to be tough with Israel. To advertise his toughness, he makes occasional statements about Jewish settlements. Yet this puts the whole exercise on a different trajectory, with talks focused on the settlements rather than the core issue — the creation of a Palestinian state.
Pressuring Israel may look good to “Abu Hussain” and his Hamas admirers. But it may reduce the chances of agreement on the creation of a Palestinian state.
Fearful that its chief ally, America, might be trying to abandon it or, worse still, stab it in the back, Israel may revert to what Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir called “the hedgehog strategy.” Because Israel holds the lands on which a Palestinian state is to be built, there would be no progress in that direction.
Peace is made when:
1) the winner of a war (or a series of wars) is convinced that he can create a new status quo in his favor, especially by ensuring his security, and 2) the loser also feels that the peace offer is the best it could hope for under the circumstances. Obama’s approach meets neither condition.
The winner, Israel, feels threatened by what it feels is a US attempt at bullying it into a deal. The loser, the Palestinian side, is deluded into thinking that, thanks to Obama’s support, it can hold out for an ever-elusive better deal. Believing that they have US support, some Palestinians are even talking of declaring statehood without winning prior Israeli approval.
Obama’s Mideast policy has made progress toward peace more difficult. His promise of achieving a peace deal before year’s end seems destined to join a long list of other broken promises.