Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Avoidable Confrontation

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's controversial address to the US Congress has laid bare the faultlines in US politics and more so his chasm with President Obama in what was an avoidable confrontation that does very little to settle the two major problems at hand - the status of Palestine and Iran's nuclear program. While Israel has proper concerns over Iran's nuclear program, wading into extremely partisan domestic politics in the US is not going to solve that and will certainly create more problems that it solves.

The biggest culprit in the game is Speaker John Boehner, who should never have requested the address without taking the Obama administration into account. It is no secret that Boehner would like very much to discredit Obama to the point of no return. However, to side-step the administration on a matter of foreign policy and effectively try to run a parallel administration is taking things too far. Now that the faultlines are wide open for all to see, any damage to US-Israel relations will squarely land on Boehner's table, no matter how much he tries to push it on Obama.

The real issues at hand are two. First, the question of the status of Palestine cannot be left hanging forever. The world is turning against Israel for its tactics against Palestine, even if it is to fight off Hamas terrorists. There is simply no reply to dead children in a school that was bombed by the IDF. It is in Israel's best interests to quickly move on the two-state solution and once and for all, end illegal settlements in the West Bank - the world, including the US, in absolutely clear on this matter. Time is of the essence - the world itself is changing and the US cannot continue to unilaterally protect Israel forever. And Israel itself must realize this.

The second issue is over Iran's nuclear program. While the current President of the country seems conciliatory, Israelis cannot forget Ahmedinejad's proclamations that 'Israel should be wiped off the map.' The onus is on Iran to correct that mistake its leaders made and it should not expect the world, especially the US, to help it do that. Iran itself has turned Israel into a part of the cynical Shia-Sunni battle it wages with Saudi Arabia and thinks nothing for the Palestinians. Every time more hot air comes out of Iran, Israel becomes angrier and Palestinians continue to suffer. Far from nuclear weapons, Iran's supreme leadership - which does not change with each election - does not even deserve to get a microphone. Obama's weak foreign policy does not even come close to addressing Israel's concerns.

In Washington, as Netanyahu addresses Congress with several key democrats skipping the event, lawmakers who care about the whole issue should see that the ultimate problem comes down to the question of Palestine, which has waited decades to have its own state. Rabble rousing and playing petty politics will not help - the world is growing tired of an Israel and US that are doing very little to really conclude a two-state solution. And it is happening fast. 

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