The Obama Administration's Approach to the Palestinian–Israeli Conflict: Opportunities and Constraints

Rathnam Indurthy, Ph.D. is Professor of Government of Mcnesse State University, Lake Charles, Louisiana, USA.
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  • January 2010

    President George W. Bush was the first US president to propose a two-state solution to the Palestinian–Israeli conflict when he addressed the UN General Assembly in November 2001. His administration also launched the road-map to help achieve this goal in April 2003 in collaboration with the United Nations, the European Union, and Russia, also known as the quartet. The administration's engagement in the peace process finally led to the November 27–28, 2007 Annapolis Conference in Maryland, where under US auspices, the then prime minister of Israel, Ehud Olmert, and the Palestinian Authority's President Mahmoud Abbas issued a declaration pledging to engage in serious negotiations to reach an agreement by the end of 2008. But an agreement eluded them as the Bush administration was reluctant to pressure Israel into honouring its commitment to the November 1967 UN Resolution 242, which, among other things, emphasized the ‘inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war’. Israel has been ignoring the resolution by putting up settlements on a massive scale since 1968, and by annexing the Arab part of East Jerusalem in 1981. The administration was also perceived to be blatantly pro-Israel and consequently it lost its credibility to be an honest broker in resolving the conflict. This was clear from the fact that it gave tacit support to Israel's invasion of Lebanon in May 2006, presumably to remove the threat of the Hezbollah and of Gaza in December 2008. Also, the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 without the UN Security Council's approval only reinforced that perception among the Arabs in particular and Muslims in general. As Hussein Agha and Robert Malley note, in the Middle East the ‘Bush presidency represented an upheaval because it was both guided and blinded by a rigid ideological outlook (shaped by neoconservatives) and because of its uncommon proclivity to choose military over diplomatic means’. As John Mueller points out, the Bush doctrine reflected ‘unilateralism, pre-emption, preventive war and indispensable nationhood’.