Monday, September 21, 2009

Settling for Failure in the Middle East

By Stephen M. Walt
The Washington Post

If Obama tries to make aid to Israel conditional on a settlement freeze, Congress will simply override him. Putting real pressure on Israel risks alienating key politicians and major Democratic fundraisers, as well as Israel's supporters in the media, imperiling the rest of Obama's agenda and conceivably his prospects for reelection. Moreover, several of Obama's top advisers, such as Dennis Ross, are enthusiastic supporters of America's "special relationship" with Israel and would almost certainly oppose using U.S. leverage to force Israeli concessions. Obama and special envoy George Mitchell are negotiating with one hand tied behind their backs, and Netanyahu knows it.

If tangible progress toward a viable Palestinian state does not happen soon, however, Abbas and other moderate Palestinians will only be weakened and radical groups such as Hamas only strengthened. Obama's commitment to two states for two peoples, and his declaration in Cairo that "it is time for these settlements to stop," will sound hollow. Israel will be stuck repressing millions of angry Palestinians and will increasingly resemble an apartheid state. As former prime minister Ehud Olmert put it in 2007, failure to achieve a two-state solution will force Israel into a "South-African style struggle." And if that happens, he warned, "Israel is finished." ........."

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