Friday, 22 March 2013

Obama is a critical friend in Israel with great speech is the report of the President's very powerful appeal to a group of local Israeli students. Obama was clearly preaching to the congregation not the choir.
The only good future for both peoples, President Obama said, had to include an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. His young Israeli audience clapped enthusiastically. The continued expansion of Jewish settlements in the occupied territories that the Palestinians want for their state was, he said, counterproductive to the cause of peace, and Israelis had to realise that. An independent Palestine would, the President said, have to be "viable". That word rules out the limited autonomy suggested by some members of Mr Netanyahu's government, enclaves that Palestinians refer to as "bantustans". 
He asked his audience to put themselves in the shoes of a Palestinian child, growing up without a state, living in the presence of a foreign army controlling the movements of their parents.
It is not fair, he said, when violence by Jewish settlers against Palestinians goes unpunished, when Palestinian farmers cannot work their lands, when Palestinians are displaced from their homes.
And the Israeli audience, not all of them but very many, applauded loudly again. 

Jeremy Bowen reports it well when he added:

"Extraordinarily for an American head of state in his second term, he presented himself almost as a political insurgent, telling them that politicians would only take risks if the people pressure them to do so. He told them they had to create the change.

The implication was that it would not come from Israel's leaders on their own. Mr Netanyahu's government depends on the votes of the Jewish Home party, led by Naftali BennetWt, who has said allowing a Palestinian state would be national suicide for Israel.

The truth is that the way things are now, neither Israelis or Palestinians could deliver the necessary compromises for a peace deal, even if they could agree a form of words. Both sets of leaders face too many internal political problems."
I should make it clear that I am a huge supporter of the state of Israel, and visited the country and toured many sites, meeting lots of locals last October. The people are brave, warm, intelligent and highly motivated to live and thrive in their wonderful country. But, I find it hard to disagree with much of what the President said. There has to be a Palestinian state. No change is not an option.