Op-Ed: What Obama should say in his State of the Union address


WASHINGTON (JTA) — If he wants to jump-start Israeli-Palestinian peace, President Obama should make it a priority in his State of the Union address. This is what we think he should say:

“Since my very first hours in the Oval Office, I have stated that a negotiated solution that ends the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and delivers two viable states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and with security, is a national interest of our nation.

The urgency of the Israeli-Palestinian situation today cannot be overstated. The status quo is fragile and wholly unsustainable. The peace process is at an impasse, and both Israelis and Palestinians are talking again about impending war.

The two-state solution — the only viable solution to this conflict and a solution that is vital both to Israel’s survival and to U.S. national
security interests — is being eroded. The absence of a credible peace process not only encourages Palestinian leaders to take their case directly to the international community, it also leaves the door open to violence, emboldening those who advocate the use of force over negotiations.

It also permits developments on the ground — like settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem — that are antithetical to the two-state solution.

With these threats left unchecked, the two-state solution will not survive indefinitely.

My conclusion is inescapable: Dramatic and decisive American action is vital to stop the deterioration and provide a way forward. Without such action, unilateral actions by both Israelis and Palestinians endanger both sides and undermine the interest of peace.

A two-state solution is still possible. I reject the growing chorus of voices suggesting that this solution is dead and arguing for a discussion of alternatives. But I know that the two-state solution will not survive indefinitely, as facts on the ground continue to change. That is why I have adamantly opposed settlement building by Israel, and it is why I oppose agreement-avoidance strategies such as plans for so-called “economic peace” or “long-term interim arrangements.”

I see the current crisis as an opportunity for a bold, determined Middle East peacemaking policy.

As the parties know, there is already a longstanding and broadly based consensus on most of the elements of a permanent-status agreement. This year, I am determined to bring Israelis and Palestinians together and to get them to come to an agreement. I will do so even if it means that the current tactics for conducting peace talks need to change.

If my renewed efforts to bring the parties to the negotiating table stall once again, I will take advantage of the tools at my disposal to kick the process into motion. I may choose to lay down America’s parameters for a permanent status Israeli-Palestinian peace accord — parameters that are well-known but have never been officially endorsed. Or I may present my own more-detailed peace plan along these same lines. And I will engage the Israeli and Palestinian peoples, as well as the international community — in particular our key European allies — in support of my efforts.

At the moment it is most helpful, I will go to the region to directly address the Israeli and Palestinian peoples on the imperative of peace, the sacrifices necessary to achieve it and the immense benefits that will flow to both peoples from an historic settlement.

I am as determined today as I was when I took office to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. To achieve this goal, I will bring pressure to bear and hold the parties accountable. Israeli-Palestinian peace is a U.S. national security interest and is therefore a foreign policy priority for me.”

(Ori Nir is the spokesperson of Americans for Peace Now.)

Recommended from JTA