Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

The Obama Administration and Middle East Peace -- Worry about a "time-out"
HIRAYAMA Kentaro / Journalist on International Affairs

July 14, 2010
The expected visit of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the United States (that had been delayed by Israeli Navy military actions against relief supplies boats to the Gaza inhabitants) has finally been realized. At a joint-press conference, both leaders called for Palestine to immediately start direct talks with Israel, rather than indirect negotiations through an American special envoy acting as a middleman between Israel and the Palestinian Authorities. The Palestinian side, however, insists that they could not do so unless Israel clearly promises the freeze of settlement building activities in the West Bank of the Jordan River areas, including the eastern part of Jerusalem.

Although the details of the Obama-Netanyahu talks have not been revealed, the Israeli Prime Minister, after his talks with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, insinuated a continued presence of Israeli forces in the Jordan Valley, saying that "in case the U.S. forces withdraw from Iraq, it will again become necessary to deal with possible military threat from the east." Also, prior to the summit meeting, the Jerusalem city authorities revealed to the Israel press that large-scale city construction plans for the destruction of Palestinian houses and the building of new Jewish living quarters are actually moving forward with Netanyahu's consent. This also will offend many Palestinians.

In past Middle East Peace negotiations, the basis of discussion has always been the U.N. Security Council resolution 242, adopted in 1967 when Israel occupied the West Bank of the Jordan River. This resolution calls for Israel to "withdraw to the line agreed upon through negotiations" and "peaceful coexistence thereafter." In other words, this is a resolution which favors the Israeli side, that actually occupies the West Bank. Israel has been maintaining that the West Bank of the Jordan River is not an "occupied area" but an "area at issue," and the United States has not been able to decisively call the settlements "illegal." The situation in east Jerusalem is not the same.

Israel, separating east Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank areas, has declared it "the indivisible eternal capital of Israel." The U.N. Security Council, however, adopted in 1980 another resolution (478) that condemned the annexation as "illegal" and "invalid." The United States did not veto this resolution, which is unfavorable to Israel, and cooperated with other Council members by abstaining from voting. It was an independent judgment of the Carter Administration. So much so, that the illegality of the unilateral implementation of this new Jerusalem urban plan in the eastern part of Jerusalem by Israel cannot be condoned under international law. Furthermore, it is a holy area where, for both Christians and Muslims where important sacred sites are located. That is why it has become a source of hatred of the Islamic people toward the United States for virtually tolerating Israel’s exclusive control of east Jerusalem.

Prior to Netanyahu's visit to Washington, the ABC Network televised an interview with Rahm Israel Emanuel, the Jewish chief aide to President Barrack Obama, in which Emanuel, a constant advocate of rapprochement between Israel and Palestine, said: "In 2000 we were almost there." I was very much interested in these words for two reasons.
1) The epoch-making draft compromise put forward by the Israeli side for the first time during the negotiations under strenuous intermediation by President Bill Clinton was nothing but a sharing plan for Jerusalem with Palestinians.
2) However, the precious arbitration was launched nearly at the end of Clinton's term of office and ended in a "time-out."

At the time President Obama took office, he said that he would resolve the Palestinian issue during his first term. In his talks with Netanyahu, however, he seems to have wanted to project a "friendly" relationship with Israel in view of the up-coming November mid-term elections, by not antagonizing Jewish voters. Whether Obama has his second term, nobody knows. I hope that he would not fall into the same "short of time" rut as his predecessor. A rather "prematurely-won" Nobel Peace Prize winner, Obama should prove himself to be a courageous person truly worthy of that prize.

At this time when "deepening" Japan U.S alliance, including the Okinawa-based American marines' role in the Middle East, is widely discussed, this writer from Japan that has been willing to make whatever contribution possible toward a just Middle East Peace, would like to encourage Mr. Obama.

The writer is former NHK commentator.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

平山健太郎  / 元NHK解説委員

2010年 7月 14日




ネタニヤフ首相の訪米に先立ち、アメリカのABCテレビは、オバマ大統領の腹心といわれるホワイトハウスのエマニュエル首席補佐官(ユダヤ系)とのインタビューを放映しているが、イスラエル、パレスチナ双方の歩み寄りを訴える同補佐官の発言の中で「10年前、紀元2000年には、最終的な合意の寸前まで漕ぎつけていた」(We were almost there)という言葉に、二つの理由で私は注目した。一つはクリントン大統領の精力的な調停下で進められていたこの時期の交渉で初めて見られたイスラエル側の画期的な譲歩案が、ほかならぬエルサレムの再分割構想であったこと、もう一つは、クリントン大統領のせっかくの調停が、彼の任期切れ間際にようやく始められ、結局時間切れに終わったことだ。



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English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > The Obama Administration and Middle East Peace -- Worry about a "time-out"