December 13, 2008
The prospects of a lasting two-state solution are rapidly fading. Both sides have divided and weak leadership. Neither side seems to believe any longer in the attainment of a fair, stable peace.
The Israeli elections take place on 10 February: its likely results will not be peace-encouraging.
Barack Obama takes office on 20 January, from which day he will not be able to ignore the Palestine issue. He will have to make a choice between two tough lines. In the light of his other priorities, he can allow the situation to drift; or he can take decisive action.
The first choice is tempting but will return to haunt him. The Israel-Palestine dispute is not the cause of the problems across the Middle East but they are unsolvable without peace in the Holy Land. The second choice means taking on the settlers and, in all probability, civil war between the settlers and other Israelis.
Imposing a settlement from the outside is both unwise and unlikely to succeed long-term. But, this is a unique situation. There are no clear two negotiating teams and the settlement involves other parties whose role has not historically been consistent. Above all, it will create furore in the US which will dominate other policies. However, deep consideration must be given to whether Israel will become more and more of a burden to US security unless peace is achieved.
Calling another conference, appointing a new contact group, discussing the road map are pointless. Obama needs to take decisive action which also gives him time. He should appoint a full-time cabinet level personal representative of the calibre of George Mitchell, whose task would be to set out the terms of a peace settlement he would recommend. The terms would inevitably include the return of most of the West Bank to the Palestinians. The report would indicate, after consultation, the economic benefits which will be provided by the US, the EU, the Arab World and others. It would also indicate the likely loss of benefits if there is no peace settlement.Author : Stanley Crossick