The focus on most observers this week is on attempts by President Obama to persuade Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to agree on the concept of a two state solution to the dispute with Palestinians. Israel leader Ariel Sharon worked out an agreement with George Bush under which the United States would ignore Israel accelerated construction of housing in major West Bank settlements, particularly around Jerusalem. President Obama is now trapped in a dilemma– is the cost of getting Netanyahu to the table for serious discussions about an independent Palestinian state, allowing Israel to maintain its settlements on the West Bank? Of course, no Palestinian government could reach an agreement that allowed the extent of Israel settlements to remain in place.
Most probably any final agreement will have to allow some residue of settlements although Palestinians will demand their share of Jerusalem and some acceptance of return of refugees. One can only wonder if Barack Obama knows what he has gotten into by becoming president and attempting to negotiate the swirling waters of the Middle East.