Why can’t Palestine have statehood right now?
From time to time I ponder this question, usually after one of King Abdullah’s visionary speeches where he says we can solve the Palestinian question now, this year. I have never heard an answer.
This time I thought I heard on NPR that Obama had made a speech in Amman where he said Palestine couldn’t have nationhood because neither Israel nor Palestine was strong enough. Strong enough to do what? Push each other into the sea? That sounds like an excuse, and a poor one at that.
But paraphrasing never works for me–I need the exact words. And a lot of people in the Middle East will be parsing Obama’s words in the next few days as he moves on to Israel.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008; 11:36 AM:
Now, before I take some questions, I want to make a comment about the events today in Jerusalem. Today’s bulldozer attack is a reminder of what Israelis have courageously lived with on a daily basis for far too long. I strongly condemn this attack and will always support Israel in confronting terrorism and pursuing lasting peace and security.
Right now, my thoughts and prayers go out to all who were injured and to their families….
OBAMA: Well, first of all, I just want to say that the reason that I haven’t focused on the Israeli-Palestinian issue is because I’m spending tomorrow visiting Israel and the West Bank. And so I was going to save some of these comments until I actually had these conversations tomorrow. It wasn’t that we were avoiding the issue. We just came back from Afghanistan and Iraq.
It is my firm belief that it is in the interest of both the Israeli people and the Palestinians to arrive at a peaceful settlement.
It is a very difficult process. There is a lot of history that exists between those two people. That history is not going to vanish overnight. People’s memories are long. There’s been bloodshed and disputes that date back generations.
And so I think it’s unrealistic to expect that a U.S. president alone can suddenly snap his fingers and bring about peace in this region.
OBAMA: What a U.S. president can do is apply sustained energy and focus on the issues of the Israelis and the Palestinians. And I do believe that an ultimate resolution is going to involve two states standing side by side in peace and security, and that the Israelis and the Palestinians are going to both have to make compromises in order to arrive at that two-state solution.
Now, one of the difficulties that we have right now is that in order to make those compromises you have to have strong support from your people, and the Israeli government right now is unsettled. You know, the Palestinians are divided between Fatah and Hamas.
And so it’s difficult for either side to make the bold move that would bring about peace the way, for example, the peace between Israel and Egypt was brought about. Those leaders were in a much stronger position to initiate that kind of peace.
So one of the things I think the United States is going to have to do is to help build capacity, make sure that Israel feels secure. And obviously the tragedy that happened with the bulldozer does not help with their security. That breeds a sense of insecurity.
And that’s why terrorism is so counterproductive, as well as being immoral, because it makes, I believe, the Israelis want to dig in and simply think about their own security regardless of what’s going on beyond their borders. I think the same would be true of any people when these kinds of things happen and innocent people are injured.
On the other hand, I think that the Palestinians have to feel some sense of progress in terms of their economic situation, you know, whether it’s on the West Bank or Gaza, if people continually feel pressed, where they can’t get to their job or they can’t make a living, they get frustrated.
OBAMA: And it’s hard for them if they see no glimmer of hope to then want to take a leap in order to make impressions.
And so, I think what the United States can do is — is to help to create more — a greater sense of security among the Israelis, a greater sense that economic progress and increased freedom of movement is something that can be accomplished in the Palestinian territories.
And with those confidence building measures, that we get discussions back on track.
OBAMA: I’m sorry. I need you to speak up. You were speaking up very loudly when you wanted me to call on you. QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)
OBAMA: Well, let me — let me be absolutely clear. Israel is a strong friend of Israel’s. It will be a strong friend of Israel’s under a McCain government — administration. It will be a strong friend of Israel’s under an Obama administration. So that policy is not going to change.
OBAMA: What I think can change is the ability of the United States government and a United States president to be actively engaged with the peace process and to be concerned and recognize the legitimate difficulties that the Palestinian people are experiencing right now.
And recognize that it is not only in the interest of the Palestinian people that their situation improves, I believe it’s also in the interest of the Israeli people, because it is going to be very difficult for Israel ever to feel secure if you don’t have some sense of opportunity and prosperity and stability with its — its neighbors.
And so, you know, my goal is to make sure that we work, starting from the minute I’m sworn into office, to try to find some breakthroughs.
Now, the other thing I have to make a point though is is that everybody’s going to have responsibilities and obligations in this process. And sometimes I think there’s a tendency for each side to focus on the faults of the other instead of looking in the mirror and saying, what can be done to improve the situation?
So, for example, I think with respect to the Palestinians, obviously it is very important to resolve the internal differences between the Palestinians. It’s going to be very difficult for the Israelis to resolve a significant peace agreement if they don’t know who they should be dealing with and who can actually enforce an agreement. But I just use that as one example.
What a cop-out.
This is the same politician who stood in in front of a crowd in the Chicago Hyatt on Super Tuesday, having won considerable victories in the primaries, and said,
“Maybe this year we don’t have to settle for politics where scoring points is more important than solving problems.
Maybe this year we can finally start doing something about health care we can’t afford.
Maybe this year we can start doing something about mortgages we can’t pay.
Maybe this time, this year can be different.”
That night, the crowd screamed “Yes, we can.”
So now what does Obama propose for the Middle East?
Maybe this time we’ll be willing to work for Palestinian statehood?
Maybe this time America won’t demand that Israelis and Palestinians skip hand in hand singing Kum Ba Yah before they’re willing to lift a finger to support any actual movement toward that two state solution?
Maybe this time, this year, Palestine will declare its independence?
Maybe this time America will be first in line to give official recognition to the new nation of Palestine?
Nope. If Obama was president he would be having a goal to be making sure to be working to be starting to be trying to be finding …..Uff da! So many verbs, you forget was he started out to do. Funny that a savvy politician who also happens to be a lawyer would talk that way.
So let’s take Obama’s arguments against Palestinian statehood and see where they lead.
1.”Palestine can’t be a state because Israel had some Palestinian guy run amuck in a bulldozer today.”
Ridiculous. Did America wait until all its tea was safe before declaring independence? Did we wait til all the redcoats were out? No way. It was Nike thing. We just did it. We still have people run amuck in Amercia every day, from 9-11 to the shoe bomber to random crazy people exhibiting road rage during rush hour. That doesn’t mean America can’t be a nation. In fact, it is BECAUSE America is a nation that it is more capable of dealing with acts of violence.
2. Palestinians can’t get to their job or make a living.
Well, if Palestine was a separate nation they would still be crossing borders to go to work, wouldn’t they. You don’t have to be particularly friendly with a country to declare your own independence. It would be nice if Palestine and Israel could be just like America and Canada where you just show your driver’s license to cross the border (or is that all changed now?) but the U.S. has not always had friendly borders. What about Mexico? There was that Pancho Villa guy. And the Alamo. And there was the invasion of Veracruz by the marines. Still that didn’t keep America from being a country. Maybe the incidents even ended sooner because America could act in an official capacity as a government.
And as far as needing economic stability to be a nation, we in America went through an economic depression in the 30’s without losing our nationhood. In fact, it was the federal government that started the WPA, CCC, and all the other alphabet soup agencies to put people to work to rebuild the nation’s parks and cities. Once people were working, the nation started pulling out of it’s economic problems. That’s exactly what Palestine needs. A New Deal. Jobs, a la Tammany Hall or the Kingfisher. Patronage, with the U.S. quietly holding the purse strings. Okay, I’m putting a little negative spin on it, but the U.S. needs to be involved in Palestine’s economic recovery. If we don’t, all the crazies from Iran will be right there with their big fat oil money. Let them keep Gaza and run it into the ground; America needs to be front and center with Palestinian statehood.
Obama is WRONG.
Obama is saying no, when there is not any reason to say no. This is called a “self-fulfilling prophecy”. He is claiming Palestine can’t be a nation until they do a bunch of stuff that other nations never had to do. Obama is setting Palestine up for failure. No we can’t, says Obama.
Time is now of the essence. It is vital that the year 2008 does not end as the year 2000 did: With progress cut off, the sphere of agreement collapsing and years of expanding violence to come.
We need to ask ourselves, how much further ahead would we be today, if these last eight years had been years of peace and stability? If, all this time, a sovereign Palestine had been building and thriving? If extremists and external forces had not had this issue to manipulate? If global investors and customers had been able to approach our region with even greater business confidence? If the Middle East were, already, the united economic powerhouse it can and should be – a regional community, speeding growth, ending poverty, creating jobs and securing the future, the future for which our young people are preparing so hard?
Let us not stand here in eight years, or even one year, thinking, ‘if only’. We can begin a different future, right now.
The words are from King Abdullah, of course.
Forget capacity building and all those other stalling tactics. That can be done any time.