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

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed 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.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs