President Barack Obama gave a major foreign policy address at the U.S. State Department on May 19. The topic was America’s future relationship with the people and the nations of the Middle East and North Africa. President Obama laid out a series of core principles by which future policy will be guided.
As part of the speech, perhaps the most controversial portion, Obama discussed a new approach to the Palestinian issue. He describes the status quo as “unsustainable”. At several point in his speech, the President referred to the “occupation” of Palestinian lands. He spoke out for a peace settlement based upon Israel’s return to its borders in 1967 and Palestinian agreement recognizing Israeli right to exist and peace with Israel. He acknowledged that Israelis have a right to mistrust the Palestinians as long as their security continues to be threatened.
It does appear that all sides must overcome the resort to history and face the facts on the ground today. There is a Palestinian state. It will not go away. It is in the economic and security interest of both the Israelis and the Palestinians to work together.
In the earliest history of the current state of Israel, extremist groups had to be suppressed by the Jewish majority. The Stern Gang and the Irgun were outlawed, and some of the leaders jailed. The Palestinians face the same conditions as they try to form a viable state.
Israel has also faced the social stress of immigrants from many differing lands and cultures, Ethiopian, Yemeni, French, Polish and Russians Jews and more have emigrated to Israel. Some were socialists, some were religious zealots, some were illiterate and others had multiple degrees. Palestine will face similar stresses if emigration is allowed from Lebanon, Jordan, Gaza and other areas where refugees have been kept in camps by Arab governments for the last 60 years.
Both Israel and the Palestinians are the recipients of billions of dollars in aid. Interests in both nations are heavily vested in the continuation of that aid. Much of the aid given to the nations of the Middle East, Israel included, might be viewed as bribes to keep the peace. President Obama proposes no changes in this. Indeed, he proposes even more assistance to Egypt and Tunisia.
The gist of the President’s address is this: His administration will espouse a set of values that we do not typically see in the Middle East and North Africa. The United States will increase assistance in the region by billions of dollars in an effort to increase the popularity of and belief in those values. He hopes that all nations in the region, along with the Israelis and the Palestinians, will recognize the value to their people of these core principles.
Upstate New York resident Charles Simmins brings 30 years of accounting and finance experience and a keen interest in military affairs to the news of the day. His years of experience working with the personnel of the Secretary of Defense’s New Media activity on Bloggers’ Roundtables provide insights often overlooked by other reporters.