What the Obama administration is saying about the volatile Gaza strip makes sense, but there’s one big problem.
Nobody is listening.
At least, it looks like the administration’s advice is being ignored by the Israelis, certainly by Hamas and also the United Nations. In fact, it’s hard to think of a time when words from the United States have had less of an impact on the rest of the world.
For two years, the Obama administration had opposed the United Nations’ recognition of Palestinians’ claim to statehood. That battle was lost Thursday when the U.N. did just that, elevating Palestine as a non-member observer state.
The Israelis then retaliated by doing something else the U.S. has pushed against — they approved 3,000 new residences in the occupied territory.
Rather than cool the situation down, both the U.N. action and Israeli reaction have served to heighten tensions even more, particularly with the Palestinian government run by Hamas, an organization dedicated to wiping Israel off the map.
What these events have done is they have shoved each side deeper into its respective corner. With the new U.N. recognition, Israel could face problems in the International Criminal Court for the actions of its military in disputed territory, which isn’t going to encourage Israeli leaders to return to the negotiations table with the Palestinians. And with their newfound status, Hamas may find another route other than direct negotiations in resolving the question of a Palestinian homeland.
What should ultimately happen is an agreement in which borders return to where they were before the ’67 war. Palestinian lands would be connected and water rights would be ironed out. Israel would get the security it needs to continue as a political state and decisions would have to be made on Jerusalem, a holy site to both sides who each claim the city as its capital.
It’s unfortunate that no appreciable progress had been made by the Obama administration over the past two years, with Israeli leaders showing signs of a lack of confidence in the administration’s support. That has allowed the situation to worsen so that now hardliners on both sides have more influence and the influence of the U.S. has waned.
Some way or another, moderates have to be found in the region, leaders who understand an outbreak of violence is in no one’s best interests.
As evidenced by the recent rocket exchanges between Palestinians and Israel, this situation is a powder keg that could easily explode, dragging a number of other nations into a conflict that will have no easy resolution. The next steps the Obama administration, which must find a way to exert its influence, takes will be critical toward heading that off. They must be steps in the right direction.