Obama’s Nobel

The Norwegian Nobel Committee announced today that it’s awarding the 2009 Nobel peace prize to Barack Obama.
The announcement says the award is being given,

    for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples. The Committee has attached special importance to Obama’s vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.
    Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play. Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts. The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations. Thanks to Obama’s initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting. Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened…
    For 108 years, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has sought to stimulate precisely that international policy and those attitudes for which Obama is now the world’s leading spokesman. The Committee endorses Obama’s appeal that “Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges.”

My first thought on hearing the news was that the award seems a little premature. After all, he hasn’t yet actually made peace anywhere, and his efforts on the Palestinian Question– which he himself launched with such fanfare on his first day in office– have been decidedly disappointing.
On the other hand, his declaration of support for a world free of nuclear weapons was, as the committee noted, a very important step.
When I was working on my 2000 book, The Moral Architecture of World Peace: Nobel Laureates Discuss our Global Future I surveyed the history of the peace prize and discussed with the secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Committee its philosophy in awarding the prizes. Sometimes, he said, they are awarded for past achievements and sometimes to someone who had started out along a good, though perhaps challenging, peace track. In the latter case, the intent of the award was to encourage this person to continue along the peace track.
The committee has also evidently made a real effort to make the award to people of a variety of different backgrounds and both genders. (Unlike all those numerous hard-science Nobel prizes, awarded by Swedes rather than Norwegians, nearly all of which go to well-funded white male professors at very well-funded big American universities.) It has also sought to establish the linkages between peacemaking/peacebuilding and other concerns such as environmental concerns or the rights of indigenous peoples.
Some of the committee’s decisions– particularly its awards to Henry Kissinger, Yitzhak Rabin, and Yasser Arafat– have been extremely controversial. (To say the least.)
There is also, of course, still a tiny remaining trace of the “rebranding” effort that Alfred Nobel was engaged in when he endowed the prizes. He had made his money largely through production of dynamite; so of course it was a “good” branding move to have his name become much more strongly associated with the concept of peacemaking than that of destruction.
But all these bodies that award big, well-endowed prizes (of which there are these days more than a few) are all also concerned about maintaining the “brand” of their prize. So hitching your prize to the wagon of a figure like Pres. Obama, who is extremely popular everywhere in the world today–except in Israel and among a sector of US society– is also not a dumb move.
Well, I don’t want to seem too grudging toward Obama. Many of the foreign-policy things he’s done in office so far have been admirable, even if his Palestine policy and his Afghan policy have thus far not been. I do hope this award encourages him to be even bolder in his peacemaking and more visionary in his outreach to that 95% of humanity who are not US citizens.
So, congratulations Pres. Obama!

IPS piece on global power shifts and Iran

It’s here. Also archived here.
One bottom line is here:

    In 2003, Russia and China were unable (both in strictly military terms, and in terms of global power equations) to block the invasion of Iraq. But since 2003, Russia has stabilised its internal governance considerably from the chaotic state it was still in at that time, and China has continued its steady rise to greater power on the world scene.
    Two developments over the past year have underlined, for many U.S. strategic planners, the stark facts of the United States’ deep interdependence with these two significant world powers. One was last autumn’s collapse of the financial markets in New York and other financial centres around the world, which revealed the extent of the dependence the west’s financial system has on China’s (mainly governmental) investors.
    The other turning point has been the serious challenges the U.S. faced in its campaigns against Islamist militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Earlier this year, Pakistani-based Islamist militants mounted such extensive attacks against convoys carrying desperately needed supplies to U.S. troops fighting in Afghanistan that Washington was forced to sign an agreement with Moscow to open alternative supply routes through Russia.
    Russia and China both have significant interests in Iran, which they are now clearly unwilling to jeopardise simply in order to appease Washington.

The other is here:

    Thursday brought dramatic evidence of the growing weight of non-western powers in policies toward Iran. What is still unclear is when there will be evidence of any parallel growth in their influence in Arab-Israeli peace diplomacy.

Obama wrong on the Olympics

As a US citizen, I have to say I think it is completely wrong for our president to use public resources to support the bid of his hometown, Chicago, to host the 2016 Olympics. He’s especially wrong to do this because, before he intervened, the main contender was Brazil.
The US has hosted the Olympics numerous times, including in recent years. South America has never hosted an Olympics. Brazil is a significant, upcoming country on the world scene. In recent years it has also pursued– and won– a significant case in the WTO’s arbitration system against the US government’s continued provision of subsidies to cotton farmers that have wiped out the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of farmers in Brazil and other low-income countries.
Why on earth would Obama– who claims he wants to build better relations with the rest of the world– want to pit the prestige of the US presidency against Brazil on the Olympics issue? Why couldn’t he simply have let the decision take its course, or even, given a small boost to Brazil’s bid in some way?

Good start on Goldstone, Michael Posner

Michael Posner, who’s the US’s Assistant secretary of State for Human Rights, Democratization, etc, spoke about the Goldstone Report at the UN Human Rights Council today. He called on Israel, as well as Hamas, to,

    utilize appropriate domestic [judicial] review and meaningful accountability mechanisms to investigate and follow-up on credible allegations…”
    “If undertaken properly and fairly, these reviews can serve as important confidence-building measures that will support the larger essential objective which is a shared quest for justice and lasting peace,” he said.
    … Posner reiterated Washington’s view that the Council paid “grossly disproportionate attention” to Israel, but said that the U.S. delegation was ready to engage in balanced debate.

But is the US also ready to withhold all its economic, political, and military support from either of these accused parties that fail to carry out thorough investigations into the facts alleged by Goldstone, I wonder?
Before Posner was appointed to his present position in February he was the president of an excellent organization called Human Rights First– formerly, the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights. So he must know Judge Goldstone pretty well from the work both of them did in the 1990s.
Also, HRF has done some great work on various Middle East-related issues, including Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and Israel-Palestine. I imagine it would have been hard for Posner to stay in his present job if he’d been forced simply to throw the Goldstone Report into the trash-can.
Goldstone did, it is true, call firstly on the relevant state authorities on both sides to carry out credible and rigorous investigations into the war crimes and crimes against humanity that he alleged. But he also requested the international community– in the form of the UN Human Rights Council and the Security Council– to remain seized of the matter and to ensure that those investigations take place.
So let’s wait and see.
As I wrote here a couple of weeks ago, it’s right to recognize that there’s some tension between the future-oriented demands of peacemaking in any situation of ongoing conflict and the backward-looking demands of the whole quest for “accountability”.
I think Posner has done a good job in arguing how the carrying out of credible investigations by the two national authorities can itself be a step that builds confidence. (Much better than the attempt Susan Rice made, to argue that the demands of accountability should simply be jettisoned altogether.)
However, my expectation that this government in Israel will want to ‘build confidence” in the way Posner suggests– or indeed, in any of the other ways it’s been requested to do so by the Obama administration– is very low, asymptotic to zero.
And meanwhile, as I noted in that earlier post, Israel as occupying power continues, day after day after day, to impose on Gaza’s people living conditions that are extremely inhumane and continue to constitute, as Goldstone argued, a quite illegal pursuit of collective punishment on all 1.5 million of them.
So set aside questions about “the past” and “the future” for a moment.
What is Washington doing to end that illegal behavior, which is being carried out on a continuing basis in the present by that state that is so heavily dependent on our generosity, Israel?
I guess to me, as a US citizen, that’s the most burning issue. At this point, I’m not sure how much it’s worth for Pres. Obama to try to get either the Israelis or the Palestinians (or other Arabs) to undertake “confidence-building steps” toward the other.
But what I do know is that it’s the US itself that now needs to build the confidence of the vast majority of the people in the world in the integrity and fair-mindedness of our government, which continues to cling onto its long-held role as the dominant mediator in this conflict.
That’s why we need to see the US both doing effective follow-up on Goldstone and– even more urgently– taking concrete actions to lift Israel’s inhumane siege of Gaza.

Afghanistan: Obama’s Vietnam?

There’s a rapidly growing discussion here in the US about “what to do in Afghanistan.” Some of it is thoughtful, well-informed, and serious. Like this piece by Rajiv Chandrasekaran in today’s WaPo, which argues that the two best options look to be “Go all-in, or fold.”
(Actually, that’s only one choice, since the US citizenry and budget are quite incapable of doing what would be needed to “go all-in” in that very distant and logistically intimidating country.)
I note that one aspect of the way path forward that just about nobody in the US discourse has yet started talking/writing about is the idea, that I consider crucial, that it does not have to be, indeed should not be, the US that dominates all decisionmaking and international action regarding Afghanistan, going forward.
Members of the US commentatoriat are so US-centric! It still boggles my mind. I suppose that right now, this is still part of the legacy of the 1990s, when the US was the sole and uncontested Uber-power in the world…
Anyway, that caveat notwithstanding, Frank Rich had a fascinating piece in today’s NYT in which he noted a new aspect of the strong relevance the Vietnam precedent has for the decisions Obama currently faces over Afghanistan.
Rich noted that George Stephanopoulos recently blogged that the latest “must-read book” for members of Obama’s “war team” is Lessons in Disaster, a book published last year about a guy called McGeorge Bundy and “the path to war in Vietnam.” Bundy was John Kennedy’s national security adviser.
Underscoring the book’s relevance, Rich notes that when it came out last year, no less a person than Richard Holbrooke, now Obama’s chief emissary for Afghanistan and Pakistan, reviewed it (in late November) in the NYT.
Holbrooke’s review is well worth reading. He gives some helpful info about the background to the writing of the book. He also refers to a much earlier essay he himself had written about Bundy that he had titled, ““The Smartest Man in the Room Is Not Always Right”, noting that, having known Bundy a little bit, he had had him in mind when he wrote it.
Holbrooke concluded the review with this:

    Bundy never believed in negotiations with the Vietcong or the North Vietnamese. This, coupled with his enduring faith in the value of military force in almost any terrain or circumstance, were his greatest errors. They contributed to a tragic failure. With the nation now about to inaugurate a new president committed to withdraw combat troops from Iraq and succeed in Afghanistan, the lessons of Vietnam are still relevant.

These two little insights into the mind of Richard Holbrooke belie an awareness of the limitations of being “the smartest man” and of the value of military force that I, for one, find a little reassuring.
Much of the current analogizing between the US in Vietnam and the US in Afghanistan focuses on the decisions Kennedy faced in 1961. Other commentaors have focused on decisions faced by his successor, Lyndon Johnson, in 1964.
Last week, I had a couple of good conversations with Dr Jeffrey Record, a very thoughtful guy who teaches at the US Air War College in Montgomery, Alabama, who has written a lot of good studies of the big mistakes the Bush administration made in Iraq.
Record has also studied the US performance in Vietnam very closely. As we talked last week, he explored the 1964-2009 analogy a bit. He noted that in 1964, Johnson faced much the same kind of “big” decision Obama now faces– whether to increase the US force commitment substantially, or find a way to ramp it down…
And like Obama today, Record said, Johnson was concerned both about trying to win some serious, big-picture reforms in domestic social policy and about the possibility of a political backlash inside the US if he should be seen as “backing down” from the confrontation in Vietnam.
In 1964, Johnson made the fateful decision to escalate. Rather than investing his domestic political capital in defending a decision to de-escalate in Vietnam, he invested it in pushing through a number of important “Great Society” social reforms at home, instead.
Later, the Vietnam part of that decision would come back to haunt him badly…
On balance, then, it seems good that Obama and his people are all reading what sounds to be an excellent study of the decisionmaking of those earlier years.

Iran sanctions and– Jerusalem

As the Obama administration prepares for next Thursday’s important P5+1 meeting with Iran, the prospects for mounting a successful sanctions campaign against Iran are being seriously undermined by the actions of the Israeli government and government-backed Jewish extremists in Jerusalem.
Today, Israeli police battled Muslim worshippers in the Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary; also known as the Temple Mount) after the worshipers tried to block the entrance into the Haram of a Jewish group of unclear intentions.
The situation of the 250,000 Palestinian residents of Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem has deteriorated rapidly in recent months, and has for some time been in imminent hazard of exploding.
The latest clash may be a spark that ignites much wider tensions between Israel and Palestinians who have become increasingly frustrated over the complete lack of progress in Obama’s peace effort. One Hamas spokesman responded to the latest incident in Haram by calling on all Arabs and Muslims to “urgently act to save the holy Aqsa Mosque in occupied Jerusalem from repeated Zionist attempts to desecrate and control it.”
But even if today’s crisis is contained, the grave and continuing threats faced by the Jerusalem Palestinians, most of whom are Muslims, anyway threaten to undercut the western nations’ ability to enroll into their anti-Iran effort the many Muslim neighbors of Iran whose cooperation is essential to the success of any stepped-up sanctions.
I was recently given that warning, in just about exactly those words, by a senior diplomat from a strongly pro-US Arab nation.
“It is Iran’s neighbors who will have to implement most of the sanctions,” this envoy said. “We can’t do this if we are still arguing about Jerusalem.”
… Yesterday, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani stated quite clearly he “did not think” sanctions would work. He was also adamant that, “”Iraq will never permit any country to use Iraqi land or sky in any war and any aggression.” (HT: Paul Woodward.)
Iraq has a very lengthy land border with Iran.
And it’s not just Arab countries. Yesterday, too, prime minister Rejep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, another Muslim country that shares a land border with Iran, urged caution about stepping up the sanctions on Iran. He said that sanctions “won’t bring about anything good for the people (of Iran). So I think we have to be careful.”
Turkey is currently a member if the Security Council and is emerging as a powerful actor throughout the whole Middle East.
Now, it is true that neither Talabani nor Erdogan expressly mentioned the situation in Jerusalem as contributing to their wariness regarding the anti-Iran campaign.
But if the western nations and the pro-US governments in the region want to make a convincing case for tightening the screws further on Iran then– as the Arab envoy I talked to said quite clearly– their ability to do so is significantly weakened so long as the Israeli governmental and non-governmental bodies continue their attacks on the Palestinian community and the Palestinian Muslims’ sacred places in Jerusalem… And so long as the US government does nothing to rein in or punish Israel for those actions, which are highly prejudicial to the chances of the two-state peace to which Obama has said he is committed.
Information about the assaults that Jewish-extremist settler groups are making on the fabric and viability of Palestinian life in Jerusalem is readily available.
Haaretz’s Nir Hasson tells us today that the settler group Ateret Cohanim recently announced in a brochure that it has six properties in the Old City to sell to 22 Jewish families, “which would bring the number of Jews living in the Arab quarters of the walled city to 1,000.”
In line with the town-planning models in many Islamic cities, Jerusalem’s walled Old City has for centuries had separate “quarters”– almost literally laid out as four quarters– designated for Jews, Christians, Muslims, and Armenians. Immediately after Israel conquer East Jerusalem in 1967, it evicted all non-Jews from the traditional Jewish quarter of the Old City, replacing them with Jews.
Now, as Hasson makes clear, the next step for the settler extremists– in the Old City as in the newer (though often centuries-old) neighborhoods around it– has been to implant settlers into the heart of very long-established Palestinian Christian and Muslim neighborhoods.
The Israeli organization Ir Amim (“City of the Peoples”) has a lot of information about the situation of East Jerusalem on its website, and on the blog its supporters contribute to Huffington Post.
In one recent post there, Yizhar Be’er noted that the rightwing Jewish group Elad has been undertaking extremely incendiary excavations– under the guise of “archeology”– in extremely sensitive parts of the city including Silwan and the Old City:

    In several places, digs are being run just dozens of meters from the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Handing over the administrative keys to one of the most sensitive and volatile sites in the entire country, and possibly the world, to a political, extremist organization [like Elad] is akin to deciding to hand over the keys of the nuclear base in Dimona to Ahmedinejad and friends.
    … Thousands of Jews identify with the movement to rebuild the Temple. They gather around Succoth in the national convention center and swear to “remove the abomination” (i.e. the holiest Muslim site in Jerusalem and one of the holiest sites of all of Islam) from the premises.

I see that yesterday, Hillary Clinton urged Arab states to “provide political backing for the Palestinians to begin peace talks with Israel even if a freeze on Jewish settlements in the West Bank is not in place.”
She held a meeting in New York yesterday with high-level representatives from the six GCC countries, Egypt, Iraq, and Jordan.
Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman told reporters afterwards, “We don’t want to have the perfect be the enemy of the good… We’re not going to wait for the perfect package before we start negotiations.”
Nobody’s asking for perfection! But people everywhere who yearn for a decent and viable end to the Israel-Palestine conflict do want to see a modicum of fairness and even-handedness in the positions adopted by the US, which still aspires to the role of lead mediator of this tragic conflict.
Clinton reportedly told Reuters that the meeting with the nine Arab state reps had been “positive and productive.”
Maybe she hadn’t been listening to Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Saud al-Faisal, when he said in his address to the General Assembly,

    Unfortunately, no real results or notable signs of progress have been achieved in spite of the commendable endeavors of the United States of America (and) the evident personal desire of President Barack Obama and his team to further the peace process…
    If all of this international concern, all this international consensus and all these international endeavors have so far failed to induce Israel to honor the commitments to which it previously bound itself under the Road Map, how can we be optimistic?

Earth to Clinton and Obama: We need to see action to stop the settler-driven destruction of East Jerusalem… and we need to see it now!

Rahm Emanuel’s disturbing view of US role

Key Obama advisor Rahm Emanuel said this about Israeli-Palestinian peace and the US role in securing it, to Charlie Rose on Wednesday night:

    You can’t want this more than they want it. They have a responsibility to their people if they want to make peace and have… a two-state solution that’s based on the principles of past Israeli governments and past American presidents regardless of party have endorsed, as have past Palestinian leaders.
    They have a responsibility. We don’t have — we can’t want this more than they want it.

It’s on p.2 of the transcript there. HT: Akiva Eldar.
In terms of tired, inaccurate, and distinctly counter-productive cliches that get mouthed about Palestinian-Israeli issues, that’s not all, either. Emanuel drags out that ghastly, demeaning, and racist quote Abba Eban coined about “The Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”
To Charlie Rose’s credit, he does try to push Emanuel a little at a couple of points. But Emanuel generally gives only evasive answers. Here’s an example:

    CHARLIE ROSE: And we have influence with the Israeli government on the settlements question and they’re listening to what we say?
    RAHM EMANUEL: We have a very deep relationship with the government of — not just this government of Israel, but the country of Israel as it relates to its security…
    CHARLIE ROSE: Has the Netanyahu government disappointed you about what it…
    RAHM EMANUEL: No. The president was clear about the issue of the settlements.

Well, if the Prez gives much of a hearing at all to Emanuel on Israeli-Palestinian issues, which I assume he does, then this is really bad news.
Earth to Rahm Emanuel: Yes, the American people can care more about Israeli-Palestinian peace than the parties themselves. And we have a strong and direct interest in this peace process succeeding. Please stop giving a complete veto over our policy to Israel’s Likud government.
Footnote: How come, in a White House that’s usually renowned for its message discipline, Rahm Emanuel even gets to speak publicly about foreign policy issues that are not his direct responsibility?
I am very glad indeed that Emanuel gave Charlie Rose this interview, as it provides us an important window into the kind of advice he is presumably giving the president on a whole range of foreign policy issues. But in international affairs, words publicly uttered words by government officials have major consequences.
These ones certainly should.

Obama’s peacemaking pledge– to the world

Where he said it was as important as what he said.
Today, in his debut appearance as US President at the UN General Assembly, Barack Obama vowed,

    I will… continue to seek a just and lasting peace between Israel, Palestine, and the Arab world. We will continue to work on that issue. Yesterday, I had a constructive meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas. We have made some progress. Palestinians have strengthened their efforts on security. Israelis have facilitated greater freedom of movement for the Palestinians. As a result of these efforts on both sides, the economy in the West Bank has begun to grow. But more progress is needed. We continue to call on Palestinians to end incitement against Israel, and we continue to emphasize that America does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. (Applause.)
    The time has come — the time has come to re-launch negotiations without preconditions that address the permanent status issues: security for Israelis and Palestinians, borders, refugees, and Jerusalem. And the goal is clear: Two states living side by side in peace and security — a Jewish state of Israel, with true security for all Israelis; and a viable, independent Palestinian state with contiguous territory that ends the occupation that began in 1967, and realizes the potential of the Palestinian people. (Applause.)
    As we pursue this goal, we will also pursue peace between Israel and Lebanon, Israel and Syria, and a broader peace between Israel and its many neighbors. In pursuit of that goal, we will develop regional initiatives with multilateral participation, alongside bilateral negotiations.
    Now, I am not naïve. I know this will be difficult. But all of us — not just the Israelis and the Palestinians, but all of us — must decide whether we are serious about peace, or whether we will only lend it lip service. To break the old patterns, to break the cycle of insecurity and despair, all of us must say publicly what we would acknowledge in private. The United States does Israel no favors when we fail to couple an unwavering commitment to its security with an insistence that Israel respect the legitimate claims and rights of the Palestinians. (Applause.) And — and nations within this body do the Palestinians no favors when they choose vitriolic attacks against Israel over constructive willingness to recognize Israel’s legitimacy and its right to exist in peace and security. (Applause.)
    We must remember that the greatest price of this conflict is not paid by us. It’s not paid by politicians. It’s paid by the Israeli girl in Sderot who closes her eyes in fear that a rocket will take her life in the middle of the night. It’s paid for by the Palestinian boy in Gaza who has no clean water and no country to call his own. These are all God’s children. And after all the politics and all the posturing, this is about the right of every human being to live with dignity and security. That is a lesson embedded in the three great faiths that call one small slice of Earth the Holy Land. And that is why, even though there will be setbacks and false starts and tough days, I will not waver in my pursuit of peace. (Applause.)

This is is a good start.
It is still not enough. He needs to pledge himself not just to the pursuit of peace, but to its securing. He probably needs to move beyond the mouthing of inaccurate and formulaic “parallelisms”: equating Israel’s settlement-building with alleged Palestinian “incitement”; or the US’s previous neglect of Palestinian claims with the alleged “vitriol” of verbal attacks launched by the UNGA against Israel; etc.
Most of all, he needs to act. We need to see him throwing the whole weight of US national policy behind this vigorously pursued search for attainment of the final-status peace.
But at least, yesterday’s comments after the three-way with Netanyahu and Abbas and today’s even more significant UNGA speech are, as I said, a good start.

Obama: Peace in US interest

Finally, he said it!
Just as I and some others have been urging him to do for some time now, today Pres. Obama said this about getting a final Israeli-Palestinian peace:

    It’s not just critical for the Israelis and the Palestinians; it’s critical for the world. It is in the interests of the United States. And we are going to work as hard as necessary to accomplish our goals.

Here’s why this is important. Under both Clinton and George W. Bush, the (Dennis Ross-inspired) mantra from the White House was always “We can’t want peace more than the parties themselves!”
That gave a complete veto to whichever of the two parties wanted to block or delay the peacemaking. Which in practice was nearly always the Israelis, as they continued their drive to steal the land from under the Palestinians’ feet and implant their own settlers on it (with generous continuing subsidies from the US taxpayer, no less.)
So now, finally Obama is saying not just– as he has said for so long– “We think this is in Israel’s interest” but also “It is in our interest, as Americans!”
Which means that next time the Israeli government tries to stall and say, “Oh, we can’t do this”, or Oh, we can’t move forward because we’re concerned about that”, Obama and his people can say, “We hear your concerns. But sorry, buster, we’re pursuing our own compelling interests in this peacemaking too, and this is how we need it to proceed!”
Shocking? Not really. I mean, haven’t you heard just a few times the Israelis telling us they’re going to pursue their own interests in the peacemaking?
Now, it is true that Obama only slid that line about peace being in the US’s own interests in at the end of the remarks he made today after the “three-way” with Netanyahu and Abbas, rather than putting them more prominently at the beginning.
And it’s true that for Abbas to agree to the three-way– and even more so, to agree to send his negotiators to start the negotiations in Washington next as Obama asked him to do– marks a significant concession on his longheld previous position, given that Israel’s land-grabbing policies in East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank continue apace.
But still, as I have written a number of times, it is crucial for the final peace negotiations to get started– and even more crucial for them to get speedily and successfully finished.
And if that is to happen, then the US President needs to not only declare but also single-mindedly pursue the US’s own interest in seeing them concluded in a timely and sustainable fashion.
So today’s declaration was a good (though long overdue) start in that process.