GUEST COMMENTARY: U.S. isn't handling Middle East situation well

2014-04-22T00:00:00Z GUEST COMMENTARY: U.S. isn't handling Middle East situation wellBy Elliot Bartky and Allon Friedman
April 22, 2014 12:00 am  • 

The Israeli-Arab Palestinian peace talks are unraveling and on the verge of collapse.

This was all too predictable, as we warned last July when the Obama administration was starting up negotiations. We also described why restarting the peace process would ultimately backfire on America and Israel.

It is instructive to examine why of the predictions we made have, regretfully, come to fruition.

At the root of the problem is the Obama administration’s inability to address reality as it exists rather than what it wishes it to be; that is, it has failed to accept that while peaceful resolution of the conflict requires two willing parties, only one currently exists. 

There will be those who argue the talks failed because of Israeli intransigence on issues like the settlements in Judea and Samaria (i.e. the West Bank). But this argument is simply a diversion, as the war against Israel began long before the existence of any settlements.

In fact, the central issue fueling the conflict is — and has always been — the refusal of the Arab world to accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state, or any Jewish presence, in its midst. Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, now in his 10th year of a four-year term, admitted as much last month when he refused to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, refused to give up the “right of return” (which would flood Israel with millions of hostile Arabs), and perhaps most astonishingly, refused to commit to ending additional Palestinian demands even after a final peace deal was signed.

Abbas’ true intention regarding the Jewish presence in the land of Israel is clear in his insistence that all Jews will be barred from living in Judea and Samaria, where they have resided continuously for thousands of years, once the Palestinian Authority gains control.

Such intransigence and rejection of basic rights for the Jews should have led the Obama administration to publicly rebuke Abbas. But the one thing Abbas has always counted on is the West’s refusal to hold the Palestinians accountable for their actions, no matter how irresponsible or outrageous.

Abbas’ new strategy is to apply for membership in UN-related groups. This move clearly violates all previous signed agreements with Israel and the U.S. and essentially establishes a new way to delegitimize Israel. No doubt it will go unpunished as well.

As we predicted, though futile the peace initiative has been very costly. Simply to get Abbas to come to the bargaining table Obama strong-armed Israel into releasing nearly 100 Palestinian terrorists imprisoned for murder. This type of intimidating, bullying behavior has not gone unnoticed by Israel and other allies and is unbecoming of the United States.

Finally, the countless hours the administration has spent ineffectually chasing the windmill of peace talks has led it to neglect the greatest threat facing the Middle East and free world — an emerging nuclear Iran.

Current U.S. negotiations with Iran have done nothing but allow Iran more time to arm itself and shake off punishing sanctions while delaying its nuclear capabilities by at most a few weeks. We were right about the peace talks. We cannot afford to be right on Iran.

Elliot Bartky is president and Allon Friedman, MD, is vice president of the Jewish American Affairs Committee of Indiana. The opinions are the writers'.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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