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Palestine - Obama, some home truths and missed opportunities

By David Singer - posted Monday, 15 June 2009

Jews and Arabs are destined to become engaged in many years of further fighting, trauma and suffering unless President Obama does a complete backflip by adopting a different stance to that which he expressed in his long awaited speech at Cairo University on June 4.

The President has jumped head first into a bottomless hole in unequivocally proposing to his Cairo audience that the two-state solution - the creation of a new Arab state between Israel and Jordan - remains the “only resolution” to end the 130 years conflict between Jews and Arabs in relation to the territory once known as Palestine.

President Obama has conveniently chosen to ignore that 94 per cent of former Palestine has already been divided into two states - the Jewish State of Israel (17 per cent) and the Arab State of Jordan (77 per cent) - with both of those States being parties to a peace treaty executed by them in 1994.


Sovereignty in the remaining 6 per cent of former Palestine - the West Bank and Gaza - still remains unallocated between Jews and Arabs.

The idea that sovereignty of the West Bank and Gaza be divided other than between Jordan and Israel (and possibly Egypt) has resulted in a journey to nowhere for the last 62 years. President Obama has now joined former American Presidents Carter, Clinton and Bush in embroiling himself in brokering a solution that has no possible chance of succeeding.

This has not been for want of trying by the international community or President Obama’s presidential predecessors.

Missed opportunities by the Arabs to create a separate independent sovereign Arab state in the West Bank and Gaza have been squandered on at least six notable occasions in the past 62 years:

  1. when offered by the United Nations in 1947;
  2. during the 19 years between 1948-1967 that Jordan occupied the West Bank and Egypt occupied Gaza - where not one Jew or Jewish town or village was located following the expulsion of all Jews living there as a consequence of the 1948 War of Independence;
  3. between 1967-1988 when the Arabs refused to deal with or negotiate with Israel on the future of the West Bank and Gaza;
  4. following the signing of the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1993;
  5. in 2000 at Camp David in negotiations brokered by President Clinton between PLO leader Yasser Arafat and Israel’s then Prime Minister Ehud Barak; and
  6. during negotiations conducted under President Bush’s Roadmap between 2003-2007 and under the Annapolis process between 2007-2008.

The failure to create a new Arab state between Jordan and Israel has been the result of the following intransigent and uncompromising Arab demands:

  • their inability to accept the existence of a Jewish State in any part of former Palestine;
  • their refusal to receive anything less than 100 per cent of the West Bank and Gaza; and
  • their unwillingness to abandon their demand that millions of Arabs and their descendants be allowed to return and live in what is now Israel.

What magic formula President Obama intends to use to remove these barriers to achieving his two-state solution was not articulated by him in Cairo.

Until he does so he is merely posturing and grandstanding, saying what the Arabs want to hear but remaining silent on what the Arabs need to do to make the President’s two-state solution have any chance of getting off the ground.

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About the Author

David Singer is an Australian Lawyer, a Foundation Member of the International Analyst Network and Convenor of Jordan is Palestine International - an organisation calling for sovereignty of the West Bank and Gaza to be allocated between Israel and Jordan as the two successor States to the Mandate for Palestine. Previous articles written by him can be found at

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Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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