Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Democracy Not Partition: President Obama's Historic Speech

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Democracy Not Partition: President Obama's Historic Speech

Article excerpt

PRESIDENT Barack Obama has a problem. Particularly in the wake of Israel's holiday-season massacre of Gazans, he is under heavy pressure to focus immediately on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to "do something." However, if he were simply to announce an intention to work harder to achieve an impossible goal by means that have repeatedly failed-a decent "two-state solution" through bilateral Israeli-Palestinian negotiations-such a commitment to further years of time-wasting would kill hope rather than inspire it and be counterproductive.

Furthermore, Obama's entourage has let it be known that he would like to make a major speech in a Muslim country early in his presidency. A welcome gesture, to be sure, but what would he say? If he were simply to promise "more of the same," as he did during his campaign, his frustrated audience might be tempted to throw shoes. What could he say that would be new and exciting, would truly represent "change" in American policy, and would inspire genuine and justified hope that Middle East peace really is possible?

A conclusion to his speech along the following lines would offer change to believe in and audacious hope, and could produce a far better future for Israelis, Palestinians and all mankind than most people would dare to dream possible in these somber days:

"During the 20 years since the Palestinian leadership formally committed itself to seeking peace with some measure of justice through a 'two-state solution,' virtually the entire international community has, at some point, come to subscribe, at least formally, to that goal. Unfortunately, during those same 20 years, the realistic possibility of actually achieving a decent 'two-state solution' has become more remote with each passing year. Constantly expanding 'facts on the ground' which render a viable and coherent Palestinian state virtually inconceivable have aggravated the multitude of excruciatingly complicated and difficult 'final status issues' which have proven too sensitive even for serious discussion between the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships. As a result, the most knowledgeable and realistic observers have reluctantly concluded that a decent 'two-state solution' is no longer possible.

"I therefore call on Israelis, Palestinians and all who truly care about peace, justice and the best interests of both Israelis and Palestinians to consider the only other acceptable alternative-democracy: a single state in all of the land which both Israelis and Palestinians love and consider rightfully theirs, with full and equal rights for both peoples and free of any form of discrimination based on race, religion or any other distinction, in accordance with the inspiring aspiration of the United States and all true democracies.

"Just as marriage is vastly less complicated than divorce, democracy is vastly less complicated than partition. A democratic solution to this century-old conflict would not require any borders to be agreed on, any division of Jerusalem, anyone to move from his current home, or any assets to be evaluated and apportioned. Full rights of citizenship would simply be extended to all surviving natives still living in the country, as happened in the United States in the early 20th century and in South Africa in the late 20th century.

"The obstacle to such a simple and morally unimpeachable solution is, of course, ethical, intellectual and psychological-on both sides of the current divide. …

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