OVBIAGELE: Israel: End victim stance and start peace talks

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Last week, Israel threw caution and rationality to the wind when its officials announced new settlement constructions in the disputed territory of east Jerusalem. The announcement came during U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to the country.

His visit was meant to serve as a symbolic approval of the proximity talks between the Israeli government and the Palestinian authority.

Since the Obama administration came into power last year, the relationship between Israel and Palestine has not been a bed of roses.

I’m not surprised, and you shouldn’t be either.

Obama’s evenhanded decision to favor a two-state solution was never received well by Israel’s Premier, Benjamin Netanyahu.

With Netanyahu trying to manage a shaky right-wing political coalition that wouldn’t budge to any Palestinian demand, it was always going to be a less than amiable love affair between the two.

But for Netanyahu and his band of airheads to take their newfound defiant attitude to such heights is totally unacceptable.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton best described the situation as “insulting” to the United States and the peace process.

As a pro-peace proponent, I have often found Israel’s insolence toward a solution to the ageless conflict repugnant and imprudent.

If there ever was a time when this dispute could be resolved, it is now. Palestinian leaders Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad have not being lacking in will — as evidenced by their push for a peaceful solution.

The Obama administration seems to want to be an independent mediator rather than a partisan manipulator.

Even Hamas has taken a chill pill, slowing down the rate of violent attacks.

And with so much noise from the West about a looming Iranian threat, Sunni Arabs are willing to be friends with Israel.

But Israel is the stumbling block to peace; they continue to stall and frustrate peace efforts both in rhetoric and action.

The Netanyahu administration has been adamant to Obama’s demand to stop settlement constructions. The Premier has chosen to dance to the music of his personal political future rather than the rhythm of peace.

I think the Obama administration should go a step further in affirming what it wants. America has Israel on its pay list and is Israel’s most powerful ally.

So rather than play the expected script of fight, kiss and make up, I suggest they give Israel an ultimatum — an ultimatum for peace.

It would hurt America’s image if, after all the firm talk, it sweeps this encounter under the rug and returns to business as usual with Israel, sacrificing the Palestinian people once again.

The Obama administration should seize this opportunity in affirming itself as a genuine peace broker.

This would also improve America’s relationship with Arab nations in the region.

The U.S. should make Israel realize that its long-term future is better secured in amity with its neighbors than in American guns.

As a student of history, I have come to realize that conciliations are less costly than hostilities and war.

But events like this continually prove to us that history is learned but never learned from.

Israel must realize that its security is inextricably bound with that of its neighbors’.

And it must be ready to come down from its high horse to make the right decisions.

Israel must put off its usual con of always seeming like the victim while perpetuating acts that breed more Palestinian refugees and instability.

Two-thirds of Israelis and Palestinians favor a two-state solution, and I do too. And the weakest link to achieving this has been Israeli leadership.

It is high time the leadership of Israel gets its act together, puts its gimmicks aside and helps the peace process move forward.

And hopefully the Obama administration can carry on with the bold acts and do the right thing amid American Israeli supporters who have proven to be more hawkish than Israelis themselves.

Food For Thought: If you think peace is costly, try war.

emil.ovbiagele@marquette.edu

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