President Obama has said that an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal is going to be a top priority for his administration. During an interview with Al-Arabiya last week, Obama said the Israel-Palestine issue is “interrelated” with “what’s happening” throughout the region. He also offered support for the so-called two-state solution. “I think it is possible for us to see a Palestinian state,” Obama said, adding, “But it is not going to be easy.”
No it will not be easy. As CBS reporter Bob Simon noted on 60 Minutes last week, “hundreds of thousands” of Jewish settlers would have to withdraw from the West Bank for it, along with the Gaza Strip, to be part of a Palestinian state. But also during Simon’s report, this two-state solution may have received a small boost. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who is in the running to become the country’s next prime minister, told Simon — bluntly — that in order to achieve peace and advance a Palestinian state, the Israeli government would force the settlers to leave the West Bank:
SIMON: Can you really imagine evacuating the tens of thousands of settlers who say they will not leave?
LIVNI: It’s not going to be easy, but this is the only solution.
SIMON: But you know that there are settlers who say, “We will fight. We will not leave. We will fight.”
LIVNI: So this is the responsibility of the government, of the police to stop them, as simple as that. Israel is a state of law and order.
However, it appears that Livni’s promise may have been short-lived. Conservative Likud Party Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu, who is also in the running for Israeli prime minster, said this week that he would not be bound by the current government’s “commitments to withdraw” from the West Bank. “I won’t evacuate settlements. Those understandings are invalid and unimportant,” Netanyahu said. As such, Livni changed her tune:
After Netanyahu and senior Likud officials blasted Olmert and Livni’s “promises” and accused Livni of agreeing to divide Jerusalem, she was forced to disassociate herself from the understandings.
“I will advance only an agreement that represents our interests. Maintaining maximum settlers and places that we hold dear such as Jerusalem — not a single refugee will enter,” Livni said.
The Wonk Room’s Matt Duss notes, “When leaders of competing Palestinian factions make maximalist claims to appeal to hardline constituencies, it’s extremism. But when Israeli leaders do it, it’s politics. If the goal of the U.S. and Israel is to strengthen Palestinian moderates like Abu Mazen against Hamas — and people keep telling me that’s the goal — it’s hard to see how this helps.”