As has so long been the case, a solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine seems nowhere in sight.
In a speech to the U.N. General Assembly Wednesday, President Obama urged both sides to continue the dialogue and said there was “no shortcut” to ending the conflict. Despite the plea, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is now pushing ahead with plans to submit a bid to seek U.N. recognition of a Palestinian state.
While a poll on the Jerusalem Post showed that 70 percent of Israelis think Israel should accept the U.N. decision, experts say it’s likely the bid won’t go through, as the U.S. has already vowed to veto it. And people on both side of the debate say the events of this week have made them less hopeful than ever that a solution is near.
Ali Abunimah, a Palestinian-American journalist and co-founder of the pro-Palestine online publication the Electronic Intifada, said of Obama’s speech Wednesday: “For anyone who believes in the peace process, it would be a very disappointing speech.”
Abunimah said many were disappointed that Obama made no reference of the 1967 borders or of Israeli settlements. “Those two are crucial for anyone who believes in the two-state solution,” Abunimah says.
Elizabeth Tsurkov, a blogger and activist on refugee rights in Israel, says she took issue with the speech because while Obama discussed the suffering of Israelis at length, he did not talk about what it’s like to live under occupation.
“I'm certain the Palestinians will see this as a sign that they need to bring this issue to the Security Council,” she says.
Tsurkov also believes that even if the bid is not accepted, “it will have serious repercussions in terms of international law, especially in the International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction over Israeli actions in the occupied Palestinian territories.”
Other commentators and groups say Obama’s speech shows it’s time America stop trying to broker a peace agreement at all.
Mya Guarnieri, an American-Israeli journalist and writer, asks: “How can Obama be an impartial broker for a peace agreement when Israel is a hot-button issue for elections?”
In May, Obama gave a speech trying to negotiate a return to pre-1967 borders. The Republican reaction to Obama’s comments on Israel was swift.
“President Obama has thrown Israel under the bus,” former Massachusetts governor and GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney said in a statement at the time. “He has disrespected Israel and undermined its ability to negotiate peace.”
Congressional Republicans echoed the sentiment. “The president’s reference to pre-1967 borders as the basis for peace undermines our ally Israel’s negotiating position, demonstrates insensitivity to the security threats Israel faces on a daily basis, and ignores the historical context that has shaped the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for more than 60 years,” Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) said.
That reaction was likely still ringing in Obama’s ears Wednesday, says Abudinah.
“There used to be a consensus, but now Republicans claim that Obama is insufficiently pro-Israel. So this was the main audience, it was who he was looking over his shoulder at,” Abunimah says.
Obama got a similar reaction from some groups Wednesday, including from the Jewish Voice for Peace, which issued a statement calling the speech “profoundly disappointing,” and saying that “his desire to get re-elected in 2012 has trumped not only his good sense, but his ability to act on behalf of U.S. — and in the long run — Israel's best interests,” Israeli news Web site Haaretz reported.
Commentators and rights groups disagree on the solution. Some of them suggest a one-state solution, others suggest an end to dialogue and focus on what’s happening on the ground, but they all agree on one thing — the seeming lack of hope going forward.
“A lot was bet on this” bid for statehood, says Abunimah. “It was the last throw of the dice by Abbas, and it came up as bad .... What this all adds up to is absolutely nothing.”