Like so many of his predecessors, President Obama is quickly discovering that persuading Israel to change course is nearly impossible.
Obama came to office determined to achieve a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians. His opening move was to insist that Israel stop building settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem — a tough line aimed at bolstering Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and persuading key Arab states to make conciliatory gestures toward Israel. These steps would pave the way for the creation of a viable Palestinian state and the normalization of Israel’s relations with its Arab neighbors, and also help rebuild America’s image in the Arab and Muslim world.
Unfortunately, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has no interest in a two-state solution, much less ending settlement expansion. He and his government want a “greater Israel,” which means maintaining effective control of the West Bank and Gaza. His response to Obama’s initiative has ranged from foot-dragging to outright defiance, with little pushback from Washington.
This situation is a tragedy in the making between peoples who have known more than their share. Unless Obama summons the will and skill to break the logjam, a two-state solution will become impossible and those who yearn for peace will be even worse off than before.