Obama, Netanyahu, and the Palestinians

Marc Lynch says that there’s been a change in Israeli policy under the radar:

It’s important to again emphasize the crucial context here:  Obama’s pressure has actually been quietly working.  Lost in the public pyrotechnics over Netanyahu’s grudging utterance of an emasculated two state phraseology, Israel has over the last few weeks actually been making serious changes to the checkpoints and roadblocks in the West Bank and to the blockade of Gaza. The siege of cities such as Nablus has been lifted, major choke-points on key West Bank roads have been significantly opened, and journalists report being able to drive to Jenin without being stopped at a checkpoint. This is new.

For most Palestinians, the more than 600 major West Bank checkpoints and roadblocks are their top daily complaint, the major obstacle to travel and internal commerce, and a major ongoing humiliation. Every Palestinian we spoke with mentioned the checkpoints as the single most important short-term issue Obama could take on.  So did every American and international aid official, as well as even most of the Israelis.   Easing internal travel and the checkpoints should have a major positive impact on the every day lives and economic prospects of Palestinians, which could start generating some enthusiasm for a resumed peace process.  Of course, they also emphasized as firmly as possible that this would only be welcomed if accompanied by a clear political horizon, and not as an alternative to it (Netanyahu’s ‘economic peace’ argument has few takers even in Ramallah).

Lynch thinks that the two-state solution endorsed by Netanyahu is “emasculated” rather than a true solution, and that the “natural growth” argument for Israeli settlements doesn’t hold water, as the government continues to encourage people to move to the settlements.  Lynch believes that Obama’s “tough love” approach to Israel is only approach that has gotten results.  He also believes that Obama’s policy depends on demanding a full settlement freeze.

I wanted to post this as information rather than as advocacy as I am still trying to define my own opinion.



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