If this week’s speeches by US President Barack Obama have taught the Palestinians anything, it is that we have should never sit around waiting for America to save us. While the United States will always remain a major player in any peace agreement between us and Israel, it is high time we realized that it will never deliver with an even hand.
The two consecutive speeches by the US president –” first the policy speech made on May 19 and then his address to AIPAC on May 22 –” produced nothing groundbreaking, at least for the Palestinians. Some “the glass is half full” people may say that at least the President designated the 1967 borders as the perimeters for future border negotiations, something the Palestinians have been demanding for decades. However, realists will see it in another way, especially after Obama boasted of the “unbreakable” bond between Israel and the United States to the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee and clarified what he really meant when he referenced the ’67 borders.
“Let me reaffirm what 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps means,” said Obama. “By definition, it means that the parties themselves –” Israelis and Palestinians –” will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967. It allows the parties themselves to account for the changes that have taken place over the last 44 years, including the new demographic realities on the ground and the needs of both sides.”
While this may sound innocuous, or even conciliatory to those unversed in the conflict, it only took the roaring applause of AIPAC’s conference goers to understand the implications of Obama’s statement. “Changes over the past 44 years” and “new demographic realities on the ground” are in direct reference to Israel’s illegal settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, the most glaring impediment to any contiguous and viable Palestinian state. Obama’s “mutually agreed” land swaps mean the Palestinians are going to be forced into accepting the major settlement blocs on their land, most likely in exchange for some arid, unusable pieces of desert. Such an arrangement will hardly meet the “needs of both sides.”
But this is to be expected. The United States has always reiterated its unwavering commitment to Israel’s security regardless of its president. Mr. Obama is no different. However, we must get over our disappointment and bite the bullet. We know that Obama cannot or will not take the bold steps needed to create a fair and just solution to the problem. We know that, while his intentions may be noble, he is walking in the footsteps of all of his predecessors and their failed attempts to achieve “peace in the Middle East.” And above all, we know that even at the risk of angering his fellow Americans, President Obama will continue to support Israel’s mighty military in the occupied Palestinian territories and appease even the most obnoxious of Israel’s leaders. Of course, in this case, this can only mean Benjamin Netanyahu, the cocky Israeli prime minister who laid down the rules to the US President in the latter’s own Oval Office. Later, when Obama spelled out his intentions to AIPAC, Netanyahu’s party, Likud, pompously boasted that the American president had “listened to Netanyahu.”
“The wisdom and determination of the [Israeli] prime minister and the dividends that they yielded were evident in President Obama’s speech," said Knesset member Carmel Shama-Hacohen. "President Obama gave an explicit, emphatic ‘no’ to the ’67 lines and Hamas [while expressing] boundless support for the State of Israel as a Jewish and a democratic state whose security is ensured."
So there you have it. The Palestinians cannot and should not depend on Obama as a fair mediator. He will not support the Palestinian bid for statehood at the UN in September nor does he support the reconciliation between Hamas and Fateh. He is a supporter of individual freedoms, democracy and the peoples’ voice except when it comes to Palestine and the Palestinians. This is the reality we have to accept.
The Palestinians will continue to remain united because that is in our interests, regardless of what the US wants. We will also go to the UN in September because we know that negotiations have gotten us nowhere in the past 20 years and will probably get us nowhere for the next 20. We will go even if the US vetoes the vote. It will not be the first time or the last. But hopefully, we are now working in our own interests. Obama can cozy up to Israel all it wants. We will not wait for this American Godot anymore.