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

Video Positive Messaging Helps Revamp Ethiopia's Image

In country once connected with war, poverty, famine, headlines now focus on fast-growing economy, diplomatic reputation More

Russian Activist Thinks Kremlin Ordered Nemtsov's Death

Alexei Navalny says comments of Russian liberals who think government wasn't involved are 'nonsense.' More

Video Land Disputes Rise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers More

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.
Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Imagei
X
Marthe van der Wolf
March 03, 2015 9:03 PM
Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More