On 24th June 2002 at the Rose Garden of the White House, President George W Bush mentioned for the first time the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict . Since then this has been the consensus solution that is currently under discussion by the key parties to the conflict. The idea was reaffirmed at the Annapolis Conference in November 2007. The proposal was supported by many international figures, agencies and the Arab world. President Bush was the First US President to declare a two-state solution as US policy. His "Road Map to Peace" initiative had included a "quartet" of partners including the US, UN, the EU and Russia. He had gone on record supporting a separate, equal, contiguous Palestine. President Bush was distracted by Iraq and Afghanistan and did very little to pursue his declared objectives for the Israelis and the Palestinians. The declarations remained on record as good intentions only.
In May 2009 President Barack Obama had urged visiting Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu to accept a Palestinian state. After their first talks since both took office, Mr Obama restated his support for a two-state plan and said the US would be "engaged in the process".
He also said Israel had an obligation under the 2003 "roadmap" to stop Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
Mr Netanyahu said he was ready to start peace talks "immediately" but refrained from endorsing a Palestinian state.
On 4th June 2009 in a much publicised speech at the University of Cairo President Obama called on Israel to stop settlement expansion and for the establishment of a Palestinian state. He also made reference to the suffering of Palestinians, by sending a clear message to Israel that a just peace is built on the foundations of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital."
So here we have it that since 2002 the two-state solution has been an official American policy. Now over nine years later the US is to Veto its own policy in the Security Council should the question of the two-state solution is put before the Council.
Initially I had some reservations about the PLA taking the case to the UN and bypassing the "negotiations". I heard it over and over again the last few weeks that the Palestinian decision to take their case to the UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council was a result of despair and frustration. The consensus among Palestinians is that some 18 years of negotiations with Israel since the Oslo Accord in 1993 had not produced any tangible gains for the Palestinian side. All that happened apart from security co-operation was more and more road blocks, settlements and confiscation of land, a separation wall and the shrinking of the territories on which a so-called viable contiguous state was supposed to be built.
Gideon Levy, a prominent Israeli journalist wrote recently in Haaretz that "Israel does not want a Palestinian State, period." A link for Levy's article will appear at the bottom of the page.
President Barack Obama has declared his unwavering support for Israel repeatedly but there has been no reciprocity from the Israeli side. Netanyahu ignored Obama's plea to stop the settlement building program.
Most Middle East watchers and analysts in London and some in USA believe that the US Veto on Friday is not cast out of conviction on matters of principles but to appease AIPAC, and their republican supporters in Congress. The US Administration has little choice but to defend Israel at the UN with the looming election season. It knows very well that Israel is adopting policies which are not in Israel's interest or the interest of the USA.
I argue that an independent viable Palestinian state is good for Israel, the US, the Region and the entire world. I also believe that President Obama is sincere and well-meaning but the emphasis of leaving it to the parties had proved an illusion in the past, and would not work in future.
For many years as Gideon Levy says in his article, the excuse was Arafat. How many times we heard the mantra "it's all Arafat's fault, Arafat is an obstacle to peace". Arafat has gone and what is the excuse now. Mahmoud Abbas the Palestinian Authority president is one of the most pragmatic, moderate and flexible Palestinian politician any one can wish for. He bent backward to accommodate Israeli security needs. His Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is a practical technocrat and not an ideologue. If Israel cannot do business with these two, I would ask who else it can do business with. The world is supporting and welcoming the Arab Spring, yet it is reluctant to grasp the nettle of the thorny Israel Palestinian conflict and do the right thing.
It is important to note that Abbas has always maintained that negotiations should resume after the UN bid and the two are not exclusive. However the Palestinian side is going to insist that resumption of direct negotiations are conditional on settlement freeze, with a time-frame and international guarantees.
In his article in the New York Times of 17th September Thomas L Friedman described the current leadership of Israel as the "most diplomatically inept and strategically incompetent government in Israel's history". The do nothing strategy is damaging to Israel and to the security of the region and is against the interests of USA. Orly Azoulay writing in the Israeli YNETNEWs on 21st September has reminded President Obama of a promise he made when he was elected. "Establish a Palestinian state and put an end to the occupation and to the conflict".
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