News / Middle East

    Obama Trip Renews Debate over Israeli-Palestinian Solution

    President Barack Obama gestures during his speech at the Jerusalem Convention Center, March 21, 2013.
    President Barack Obama gestures during his speech at the Jerusalem Convention Center, March 21, 2013.
    Pamela Dockins
    U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have re-ignited the prospect of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, after meeting with officials on both sides in the region. 

    During his trip to the Middle East last week, Obama urged Israel and the Palestinians to begin direct talks on the core issues of a peace agreement.  But some analysts say neither side may be ready for full-fledged talks in the near future.

    Natan Sachs, a foreign policy expert at the Brookings Institution's Saban Center for Middle East Policy, said the president's trip was a resounding success in terms of public diplomacy.  But he told VOA's Encounter program Israel and the Palestinians are reluctant right now to take the "bold steps" that could lead to change.

    "Pessimism and skepticism about the possibility of a two-state solution in the near future is shared by everyone, Palestinians, Israelis and all of the parties in the region for a variety of reasons," said Sachs.

    He said those reasons include domestic politics and the extreme volatility in the region, especially in Syria and Egypt, which border Israel.

    American Task Force on Palestine Executive Director Gaith al-Omari told VOA that Palestinians were heartened to hear  Obama's commitment to a two state-solution, a prospect supported by his Washington-based group.  But he said Palestinians remain skeptical about Obama's positions on other issues.

    "There are remaining concerns about President Obama’s stance on the Palestinian U.N. bid, on his inability to deliver on a settlement freeze," said al-Omari.

    Palestinians have long opposed Israel’s construction of settlements on land they want for a future state.

    Obama drew applause last week when he addressed the settlement-building issue during a speech to Israeli students.

    "Israelis must recognize that continued settlement activity is counterproductive to the cause of peace and that an independent Palestine must be viable, with real borders that have to be drawn," he said.

    Despite of the support from students, al-Omari said the issue of settlement building remains a sticking point for negotiators.

    "The Palestinians will not go back to negotiations in a meaningful way without a settlement freeze, and the Israelis will not give a settlement freeze," he said.

    As a result, al-Omari said negotiators should not spend too much "political capital" on trying to re-start talks on the issue that would go nowhere in the short term.

    "Let us focus on less controversial issues, on areas where there is intersection of interest between Palestinians and Israelis, like security coordination in the West Bank, like creating more breathing space for Palestinians in the West Bank, and do some progress there," said al-Omari.

    He said talks on less controversial issues may shift public sentiment and enable more serious negotiations within a year or two.

    Sachs said the make-up of Israel's new governing coalition could turn out to be another obstacle to moving talks forward.  The governing coalition includes the Jewish Home Party, a far-right group headed by a young entrepreneur, Naftali Bennett.

    "Naftali Bennett is not coy about his opposition to a two-state solution.  He is very adamantly opposed to it and it is very unlikely that this coalition could sign a real deal or even move very dramatically in that direction," said Sachs.

    He said the "good news" is this is not a U.S. problem, but a problem for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  He said the U.S. should continue to advance its own agenda.

    Al-Omari says as the debate continues, Palestinians are waiting to see what action will result from the renewed U.S. public commitment to peace.

    You May Like

    Wife of IS Leader Charged in Death of US Hostage

    Suspect allegedly admitted to being responsible for American aid worker Kayla Mueller, who officials say was sexually abused and ‘owned’ by one IS member

    Year of the Monkey Could Prove Economic Balancing Act for China

    China is up against a tricky situation on the financial front, facing the need to fight capital flight while also stopping a further slide of foreign currency reserves

    Runners Attempt 26-mile South Pole Marathon in Sub-Zero Temperatures

    How alluring is running 26.2 miles at 10,000 feet when it’s minus 31 Celsius out?

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Godwin from: Nigeria
    March 28, 2013 12:47 PM
    Two state solution, isn't it? Palestinians and Israelis are already living in their separate states. What may be in contention is the resolution of who really owns and who should possess the so-called occupied patches of land. Good. While the Palestinians are busy bickering and sulking about occupied land, Israel is busy making accommodation available for its teeming population, including those still returning from Russia, Ethiopia, Iraq, Pakistan etc.

    Palestinians seem to be in the majority idiots who cannot think for themselves, so they spend their time in quarrels rather than in tangible demand for peace with Israel which ALONE will guarantee their peace. Any other way round is either a long process or a waste of time.

    by: jamesdickason from: weatherford, TX
    March 27, 2013 10:58 PM
    Obama continues to get everyone fighting with each other. His comments will sure put fuel to the fire. Just like he does both Houses of Congress.

    by: Greta Schmidt from: Germany
    March 26, 2013 5:44 PM
    the only solution the Israelis should consider, if they want to survive, is mass deportation of all Arabs from "west Bank" to Jordan. Jordan has been the traditional home of the "Palestinians"... and so should we in Europe, we ought to start deporting Muslims from Europe back to the middle east. our survival may depend on it. there are regions in Germany that I feel like an exile in my own country...!!! this must stop

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.