Shared dreams

The vast majority of Israelis share the dream of seeing both Israelis and Palestinians flourish in free, democratic states of their own. Unfortunately, the majority of Palestinians still do not.

Obama speech in Jerusalem 390 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Obama speech in Jerusalem 390
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Some commentators, primarily on the Left, have lamented the fact that the main focus of US President Barack Obama’s visit to Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan has not been the peace process.
Haaretz, editorializing this week on the visit, attempted to resuscitate the dead notion of “linkage,” claiming that the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians and “the continuation of the occupation harm the US position in the region and erode the American public’s support for Israel.”
Thomas Friedman, writing in The New York Times, hoped that Obama would ask Israel some hard questions about its continued presence in Judea and Samaria such as “Shouldn’t you be constantly testing and testing whether there is a Palestinian partner for a secure peace?” Gershon Gorenberg, writing in The American Prospect, went as far as to say that the US president would be better off not coming to Israel at all unless he is ready to “stick his hands into the messy work of Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy,” otherwise “the trip does not even justify the Jerusalem traffic jams.”
We share the sense of pressing need to solve the Palestinian- Israeli conflict. So does Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Just two days after swearing in his government, Netanyahu came out unequivocally in support of the two-state solution. “Israel remains fully committed to peace and the solution of two states for two peoples,” Netanyahu declared during a press conference with Obama on Wednesday night, and added, “We extend our hands in peace and friendship to the Palestinian people.”
However, we reject the idea that the US or any other state can facilitate peace or that hostility in the region toward the US is in any way connected to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict.
The geopolitical earthquake that has swept the Middle East in the past two years has uncovered the folly of the “linkage” claim. Peace with the Palestinians would not have prevented the Muslim Brotherhood from coming to power in Egypt; it would not have prevented the slaughter in Syria; it would not have discouraged Iran from seeking hegemony in the Persian Gulf.
Nor has the US’s continued support for Israel despite the unresolved conflict with the Palestinians “eroded American’s support for Israel.” A Washington Post/ABC news poll published on the eve of Obama’s visit shows that Americans sympathize more with Israel than with the PA by a margin of 55 to 9 percent. Most interestingly, an even more resounding majority thought the US ought not to be the prime mover of the peace process, with 69% saying the decision should be left to the parties while only 26% thought Washington should play a leading role.
Americans understand that it is not their country’s support for Israel that triggers the rabid hatred of America felt by so many citizens of Muslim states. Rather, it is what America stands for – freedom, liberty, tolerance, democracy – that is viewed by popular movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood, with its reactionary worldview of restoring the caliphate and Shari’a, as the real threat to the region and to Muslim sensibilities.
Israel shares America’s democratic values and its belief in freedom, which explains the strong ties between the two countries.
As Obama noted in his speech on arrival, the US stands so firmly with the State of Israel because “we share a common story – patriots determined to be a free people in our land,” and because “as noisy and messy as it may be, we [Israel and the US] know that democracy is the greatest form of government every devised by man.”
If enough Palestinians shared these ideals of freedom and democracy, peace would have been achieved long ago. But in their last elections in 2006, Palestinians chose Hamas. And recent polls have shown that Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh would win a presidential race if it was held today against PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
Washington’s Herculean attempts in recent years to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict emanate from a desire to see both Israelis and Palestinians flourish in free, democratic states of their own. The vast majority of Israelis share that dream. Unfortunately, the majority of Palestinians still do not. A majority of Americans and their president are increasingly recognizing this sad fact. Others have yet to do so.