Promoting World Affairs

And the wheel goes round and round

In Foreign Policy, Israel, Middle East, Palestinians, The United States, Uncategorized on September 8, 2009 at 5:12 am

Despite pressure from the Obama administration Israel is still planning to build 455 new housing units in the West Bank, according to this report. This move by defense minister Ehud Barak is seen as a slap in the face to Obama’s new hardline approach to the Middle East. Obama rightly believes that the U.S. image in the Middle East, as well as the difficulties the U.S. is facing in deterring Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, are directly linked to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. If he can finally secure a two state solution, so it is believed, then many influential states in the Middle East, such as Syria, Jordan, and Egypt, could put more regional pressure on Iran in ending its nuclear ambitions. Unfortunately, as can be referenced in our “Et tu Brute?” post, Obama’s political struggles at home has an additional consequence of undermining his influence abroad.

Ever since its establishment in 1948, Israel has always took a realist approach to its foreign policy, especially regarding the occupied territories. Attacks on Israeli civilians by militant Palestinians has always been returned with a heavy handed response by Israeli troops. Just this past year in fact, after missiles originating from Gaza met Israeli soil, Israeli troops reentered the region, leveling houses one by one. Even the first successful act of peace brokered by Jimmy Carter at Camp David between then Israel’s Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat was only made possible after Sadat initiated the Yom Kippur War in 1973 and gained considerable amount of territory, before finally being pushed back out of the Sinai by Israeli troops, as a consequence of an Egyptian deal with Syria to push further and leaving their surface-to-air missile umbrella.

Therefore it should be no surprise that Israel is taking advantage of Obama focusing his attention on pushing health care reform through Congress and losing political clout whilst doing it. Indeed, Israel may not be as strategically important to the U.S. as it was during the Cold War, it nevertheless knows politics and how to play the grand game of international relations.

The Obama administration should not tolerate this blatant maneuver to jeopardize the peace process. Though one could argue that failures in ending the Palestinian/Israeli conflict can be contributed to both the Israelis and Palestinians, the United States nevertheless has a substantial opportunity of having a President who was willing to put the conflict on his agenda in the beginning of his Presidency, clearly illustrating the need to end the conflict. But if history has taught us one thing, it is that the prospects of peace usually disintegrates when it is almost achieved. Obama needs to stay focused and use harsh language to criticize any Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories, despite any trouble that he is experiencing at home.

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