Recognizing that the status quo is unsustainable, President Obama sought last week to revive the long-stalled Middle East peace process. He reiterated his case yesterday at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference, saying "[W]e can't afford to wait another decade, or another two decades, or another three decades to achieve peace. The world is moving too fast." Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to speak to the AIPAC conference today as well as to address a joint session of Congress tomorrow. While it will be a long and difficult process, going forward experts agree that lasting peace is in the interest of both U.S. and Israeli security.
President Obama met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House today. Against the backdrop of tremendous change in the Middle East, President Obama made a bold challenge to both sides to revive the long-stalled Middle East Peace Process. As President Obama noted in his speech yesterday, “Our commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable… precisely because of our friendship, it is important that we tell the truth: the status quo is unsustainable, and Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace.” American leadership in the Middle East is tightly tied to perceived progress on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The alternative to a resolution to the conflict is continued violence, which weakens American interests, harms Israel's long-term security and prevents the creation of a Palestinian state. Active American diplomacy, especially in light of recent events, is therefore essential to advancing our national security and protecting that of Israel.
This week in New York at the United Nations General Assemblymeetings, President Obama demonstrated his commitment to both tomultilateralism and to a national security policy that advances Americaninterests through a "whole of government" approach. In both speeches and deed, he explained how theUnited States would use all aspects of American power to advance its interests,communicated the importance of burden-sharing with our allies, and expressedconfidence in the ability of multilateral institutions to be effective partnersin fostering both diplomatic goodwill and American policy objectives. These remarks reflected the work of theadministration over the past 20 months to integrate development and diplomacymore robustly into American national security policy. In particular, at the Millennium DevelopmentGoals summit in New York, the president proposed a new framework forsustainable security based in practical development efforts that are alignedwith America's long-term interests. Thisrobust activity contrasts sharply with the lack of ideas coming from the conservatives'"Pledge to America," which failed to offer any ideas on how to handle thesepressing challenges of development, diplomacy and defense in the 21st century.
Direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians resume today after a nearly two-year gap against the backdrop of the drawdown in Iraq, the challenge from Iran, and the fight against extremist violence coming from Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere. These events are interconnected, as perceptions of American aims and effectiveness in one area have a direct impact on our ability to influence other regional events. As a result, progress toward peace is important for not just for the participants in these negotiations but also for American security. Yesterday's deadly Hamas-sponsored terrorist attack only serves to reinforce this point and to demonstrate the urgency of the task at hand, as such events are designed to upend the region and undercut American influence at a moment's notice. The only alternative to a resolution to the conflict is continued violence, which weakens American interests, harms Israel's long-term security and prevents the creation of a Palestinian state. Active American involvement in these talks, to ensure their success is therefore essential to advancing our national security.
While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finishes his trip to Washington with a visit to the Pentagon today, the meeting he held yesterday with President Obama should lay to rest any doubts about the Administration's commitment to Israel. After their meetings, the President and Prime Minister made it clear that this relationship is strong, with Netanyahu using language directly rebuffing Obama's staunchest domestic critics. In the clearest of terms, Netanyahu endorsed Obama's commitment to Israel and praised him for his efforts to enhance Israeli security vis-à-vis Iran and in the Middle East. Obama also reiterated his commitment to Israeli security through the prism of Middle East peace, calling for direct negotiations that will pave the way for a two state solution, a goal that will advance American security interests in the region, secure Israel's long term survival, and meet Palestinian aspirations. While Obama will continue to have domestic critics on his Middle East policy, they should take pause. Not only has his approach to the Middle East and Israel been endorsed by Netanyahu, but his policy to forge a two state solution also remains viable.
The Israeli government's decision to militarily intercept a flotilla headed for Gaza has unleashed a torment of international condemnation, and highlighted a key issue affecting the peace process - that the Gaza Strip cannot be ignored. The humanitarian situation in Gaza is real, and the people of Gaza have suffered enormously since a blockade was imposed on the territory following Hamas's take over in 2007. Yet despite its importance, Gaza and the broader issue of Palestinian reconciliation has been largely ignored by the United States, enabling this issue to play a negative "spoiler" role. Efforts should instead pay attention to winning over Palestinian moderates and the civilian population, rather than strengthening extremist groups through policies such as collective punishment against the population of Gaza. Unfortunately, this Israeli action has not reflected such wisdom, and has instead resulted in giving a propaganda victory to Hamas over the Palestinian Authority, weakened international support for Israel, shifted the U.N.'s focus from Iran at a critical moment, and gained precious little in terms of Israeli security. The core of the issue - how to effectively deal with the situation in the Gaza Strip and integrate it into a meaningful peace process - remains, and the sense of urgency for dealing with this is now higher than ever for Israeli security, Palestinian aspirations, and America's ability to influence events in the Middle East.