President Obama in his State of the Union message discussed a wide variety of domestic and foreign policy issues, but conspicuous by its absence was any mention of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority once again told America and the world it would not resume negotiations until Israel ceases housing construction in the West Bank and in east Jerusalem. He agreed to recognize Israel as a Jewish state if that was an item in the entire range of issues to be resolved for peace. He spoke honestly about why it was ridiculous to return to a bargaining table that had nothing to bargain about. “If Israel says in the meeting that it will not accept the 1967 borders and that it is not prepared to discuss Jerusalem and the refugee situation, what is there to talk about?”
The dilemma is no discussion can proceed on topics such as who rules east Jerusalem if Israel continues building homes for Jews and evicting Arabs. The actions of the current Netanyahu administration make impossible any meaningful discussions. President Abbas never said he was unwilling to discuss the West Bank and, perhaps, agree to some modifications of the 1967 boundary, but such concessions will only emerge after Israel ceases building. It is in the best interests of Israel to halt construction and negotiate with Abbas about territorial modifications.
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For half a century, Israel leaders complained they were unable to find people in the Arab world who were willing to negotiate for peace. Finally, President Mahmoud Abbas, leader of Fatah, became a voice seeking peace and willing to enter into diplomatic negotiations with the Israel government. So, what was the response of Israel? Prime Minister Benjamin Netayahu placed one barrier after another in the path of peace and refused to abandon West Bank settlements even though he knew it was impossible for any Palestinian leader to accept the abandonment of an area that belonged to Arab people under the UN partition plan. President Obama attempted to steer an even path between Palestinians and Israelis and urged Israel to cease further West Bank construction. Netanyahu just ignored the president. Secretary of State Clinton stepped into the situation and indicated how pleased she was that Netanyahu might promise at some future time to do something about the west bank.
President Abbas announced he is not running for re-election. There is no question when Palestinians select a more radical person as their president, Israel will commence to sound the alarm and complain how could they negotiate with radicals? The reason is simple, Israel created the current problem and only Israel can solve it.