Sunday, April 18, 2010

Obama vs Bibi; Battle for Jerusalem

As the air raid siren sounds, the Israeli flag is lowered. An entire nation stops to remember the sacrifices made by it's soldiers. Victims of terrorism are remembered for the price they have paid for trying to go about their day to day lives. The siren will sound again tomorrow morning and once again life will stop and the sacrifices will once again be remembered. As the sun sets the flag will once again be raised and the country can begin celebrating independence. It is a good time to reflect on how the actions of President Barak Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu will affect celebrations in the future.

Obama rose to the White House on a simple campaign of charisma and hope. He promised badly needed health care changes and a promise to make the Peace Process his primary goals. He faced a weak Republican campaign. He was even able to step aside from criticism on the type of people he choose to be his mentors.

Obama offered a very wishy washy vision of the health care plan. He wanted something that was bipartisan. He ended up making major sacrifices to this end. In the end he didn't get any Republican support and had to make additional changes to get his own party on board. For all of his efforts he did not bring in a single payer system. It is estimated that the paperwork to comply with the number of insurance companies adds 30% to the overall health care cost.

In 1948 the Arab world rejected the 1947 UN-partition plan by declaring war on Israel the day after it was created. During the 1950s the Arab nations demanded Israel pull back to the 1947 Partition plan instead of the borders established the 1949 Armistice Treaty (Green Line). In 1967 despite Israeli requests, Jordan entered the 6 day war. Israel captured the West Bank and liberated Jewish own land that was captured by Jordan in 1948. This included the Old City of Jerusalem, sight of the Jewish people's most holy sight.

Obama has taken the same appeasement approach to his foreign policy. He has failed to make any progress on stopping Iranian nuclear ambitions. He has marked Israeli settlements as the number on enemy to an Israeli/Palestinian peace treaty. He asked blocked Israel from buy US military equipment and blocked the Israeli Defence Industry from bidding on contracts that would compete with American companies.

George Bush had said that a final agreement Israel would have 1967+ borders. They would retain areas of natural interest due to facts on the ground such as population bases and and security considerations. Obama has had harsh criticism for any moves over the 1967 borders. This is even true for areas that Palestinians have already agreed to concede in previous negotiations. Israel would trade for land that would be more practical for a Palestinian State. The White House response to Israeli concessions has been a blanket not enough. Palestinians have not been on the receiving end of criticism and have taken the President's lead to dig in their heals and wait for the 1967 borders to be established for them rather then through negotiations.

Netanyahu took a different route to return himself to the Prime Minister's chair. He has been a cunning strategist at obtaining his political power. His first rise to power was when he opposed the expulsion of Jews from Gaza. His change of heart took place after it was too late to stop it. He had Likud rewrite their election bylaws to push his chief opponent Moshe Feiglin down on the party list, resulting in him not making it into the Knesset. He argued that he should be Prime Minster even though he had one less seat than Kadima because the right wing won more seats. He then formed a government including part of the left wing Labor party. Those who refused to join have their hands tied to a certain degree. Voting against their own party would prevent them from running in the next election. Legislation has also been passed making floor crossing easier. There have already been some close calls on failed attempts for Likud to pick off members of Kadima.

Netanyahu paid the price of 4 prisonors just for a short video to show Gilad Shalit is alive and can walk. He has also taken a firm approach with Obama. He has made concessions such as acknowledging a Palestinian State and a 10 month settlement freeze. While painful for Israelis Obama has responded that it is not enough. The same time he has lacked the same courage to criticize Palestinians. The plight of Gilad Shalit who is held by the defacto Gaza government barely makes the radar screen.

Everytime Netanyahu stands up to the White House, Israelis rally to the support of their Prime Minister. The opposition parties have been mostly silenced as they don't have an opening to attack the government. Opposition leader Livni took a short bounce in popularity when a warrant was issued for her arrest in London, for her role in Operation Cast Lead. She tried to play it up but the cancellation of the warrant sent her back to the wilderness.

Israel has demonstrated over and over again the willingness to make sacrifices for peace. The Palestinians have demonstrated they are willing to sacrifice the benefits of improving their own lot in order to concede an inch to their final goal. Obama has completely misread the situation and as a result has put many lives in danger.

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