Obama and Israel... Right move for the USA?

In the short-term, and on the surface for many of us who have seen it, it would seem that Obama has made some headway with regards to a more positive and less assertive approach to the responsibilities he has in the middle east.

This would be a welcome change in affairs for the Israeli government who, since Obama’s very public disagreements with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2009, all wish to see a better balance between themselves and their American counterparts.

All of this seemed to be the case when Air Force One touched down at Tel Aviv airport, where, on arrival, President Obama announced that the nature of his visit was to come to Jerusalem to listen to the views of President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu.

However, on the second day of his three-day venture he delivered a planned speech to an audience of young Israelis at the main conference centre in Jerusalem, and was very clear in his ideas as to where he felt Israel and Palestine should be heading if they are to consider a brighter future.

Obama said that he believed one of the best ways forward would be for Israel to live alongside an independent Palestinian state. He then added that the continued expansion of Jewish settlements in occupied territories would go against the efforts of making peace between each other that they are constantly seeking, and that the Israeli government should be willing to realise that the halting of such expansions would be just one thing to help start down the right track to progress.

Obama then asked his audience to step into the shoes of a young Palestinian child that would grow up without living in an independent state, and whose parents live under the control of a foreign army who dictate their every move, and how that violence against Palestinian people from Jewish settlers, and Palestinian workers being pushed out of providing for their families was completely unjust.

Despite what critics may possibly call an ‘assertive’ speech given the very public disagreements with Prime Minister Netanyahu over the current power that Obama currently holds in the middle-east, it was met with an enthusiastic and positive response from his young audience.

Obama also reminded them of the strong co-operation that the US and Israeli military share, emphasised by the success of projects such as the “Iron Dome”, the rocket system that can shoot down any rockets fired from Gaza, and which is now the country’s most popular defence system.

However, many Palestinians are aware that although Obama is very good at providing their people with the words that they will hear and believe, there is also an underlying doubt amongst many of them that President Obama’s plans will become the only result of optimism when he fails to deliver what he promised. This is something the US President has been strongly accused of since his visit in 2009.

Since this time, Obama has not made such large-scale plans to implement in the near future with regards to a peace plan. Indeed, his staff told reporters in Washington before he departed for the middle-east that the President was not taking any form of peace plan to his talks with President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu, nor was a peace plan going to immediately materialise from his visit on his return.

With Obama present or not, however, despite the hope that his words may offer to his audiences in Jerusalem, the Israelis and Palestinians are no closer to a peace deal, especially as many plans between both parties often lead to contradictions in their own plans for peace, and instead constantly push each other further toward more conflict on every level.

Obama’s involvement in the middle-east, it seems, will inevitably trigger further scrutiny on his ability to fulfil the tasks he sets for himself in the region, and, all the while, will also lead to criticism of his campaign of pivoting to Asia. While issues remain unresolved in one part of the world, so it will remain the same for the other. Furthermore, increasing strain on relations in China in his pivot to Asia campaign, and the increasing and building threat from North Korea is starting, possibly, to show a couple of chinks in Obama’s political armour. Only time will tell whether he has the vigilance, the tact, and the correct approach to keep the faith the world has in the US and its co-operation with its allies around the globe which, without proper repayment, could fade rather quickly, and cue the domino effect of reactions worldwide that such events would trigger.

BY: ROBERT PRITCHARD

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