Two States Require Two Partners
The White House met with a lot of Jewish leaders last week to outline his plans in the Middle East peace process. I imagine they take into account this CAP paper, suggesting that Obama's timeline for success has travelled ahead of "the abilities or the political conditions of either the Israeli or the Palestinian side." We can certainly see that today, with the announcement by Israel that they will continue to build a housing project in East Jerusalem.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday defended plans for a new Jewish housing development in East Jerusalem, rebuffing the Obama administration's opposition to Israeli construction in the mostly Palestinian area.
"United Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish people and the state of Israel. Our sovereignty over it cannot be challenged," Netanyahu said in response to questions that U.S. officials raised last week with Israeli Ambassador Michael B. Oren about a 20-apartment project approved this month. "We cannot accept the idea that Jews will not have the right to live and purchase in all parts of Jerusalem."
The Palestinians expect East Jerusalem to form the capital of a future Palestinian state, and the Obama administration has included the area in its demand that Israel stop building beyond the line that divided the sides before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
Given that Netanyahu's win is still fresh, this is probably a fairly popular proposal in Israel. Which is why Obama's team must engage with Israelis to improve the position of peace and partnership in public opinion polls. Palestine doesn't really have a solid negotiating partner either - Hamas and Fatah's infighting could lead to stormy elections in the next year. While Palestine's problems, particularly the lack of a civil society and governmental institutions, are large, the block of hardliner Israelis at the head of the government may be a bigger obstacle to peace, however. I don't see either side truly interested in the concessions necessary to reach an agreement.
Abe Foxman said last week that "the Administration is putting too much weight on solving the conflict." As ridiculous as this sounds, it's probably the view inside much of Israel as well.