By equating Israeli-Palestinian violence with an Iranian nuclear bomb, US
President Barack Obama in his speech Tuesday morning before the UN General
Assembly appeared at first glance to have blown this conflict out of all
Hard to imagine how continued violence in
Jerusalem or Ramallah could compare to a mushroom cloud from Tehran.
the face of the Arab Spring, with the turbulence and body counts out of Syria
and Egypt, it seems almost old-fashioned to consider this conflict as a major
source of instability in the region.
Yet Obama outlined halting Iran’s
nuclear program and the conflict as his two top foreign policy
“While these issues are not the cause of all the region’s
problems, they have been a major source of instability for far too long, and
resolving them can help serve as a foundation for a broader peace,” Obama
But there is an opposite side of the coin to this startling
linkage, which speaks of the depth to which Obama shares Israel’s belief that an
Iranian nuclear bomb would pose an existential threat to the State of Israel, as
well as to his own country and the world.
The Iranian regime, which
called for Israel’s demise, had also declared the United States as its enemy,
and killed its citizens and soldiers, Obama explained.
In the past, Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has hammered home comparisons between the Iranian
threat and the Holocaust, to underscore the danger Tehran poses to
Obama in Tuesday’s speech reminded the United Nations that it was
established to prevent atrocities such as the millions of deaths that occurred
in the two world wars, and the threat of annihilation that nuclear weapons
Even when speaking of Syrian chemical weapons, he said the world
must act in the memory of Jews gassed in the Holocaust and Iranians poisoned by
Iraq. He almost made it appear as if the UN was created for this moment in
In Obama’s view, when it comes to existential threats, the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict threatens to destroy the Jewish state. There are
those in Israel who believe that the opposite is true – that the creation of a
Palestinian state will doom the Jewish state.
But Obama in his speech
said: “Friends of Israel, including the United States, must recognize that
Israel’s security as a Jewish and democratic state depends upon the realization
of a Palestinian state.”
If a miracle occurred and Obama achieved both
the goals he set out in his speech – halting Iran’s nuclear program and solving
the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – he would have solved two of Israel’s most
pressing international problems as well.
In speaking of a two-state
solution, he did not go beyond the broad brush strokes of what has already been
said. He did not define the borders of the two-state solution. He did not speak
of the pre-1967 lines or of a settlement freeze.
Obama spoke against the
West Bank occupation, but did not include Jerusalem in his terminology. Nor did
he speak of a contiguous Palestinian state.
Israel, he said, had the
right to live in security and be recognized as a country by the international
Palestinians, he said, had the right to live in dignity within
a sovereign state.
“Two states is the only real path to peace: because
just as the Palestinian people must not be displaced, the State of Israel is
here to stay,” Obama said.
But his core message, at least for the Israeli
people, was not the detailing of his vision or even the fact that he believes in
the two-state solution.
The message for those who have doubted the
centrality of Israel to American foreign policy is the linkage of common
interests between two old allies.
The same threats that endanger Israel’s
future endanger America’s.
Obama’s foreign policy places securing
Israel’s future as one of his top priorities, not just because Israel is
important to the United States, but because the same solutions that secure
Israel’s future secure America’s.