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Issue Guide: The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Author: Deborah Jerome, Deputy Editor
Updated: May 31, 2011


The Obama administration has launched renewed efforts to prod Israelis and Palestinians to a two-state solution, beginning with President Barack Obama's major Middle East address at the State Department on May 18. The president also addressed the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC May 22 and is expected to try to dissuade European allies from backing a coming United Nations vote on Palestinian statehood during his European visit this week. At issue are questions about the borders of a Palestinian state and how the Israeli-Palestinian crisis fits into the broader pro-democracy movement in the region. The following materials offer a range of analysis on recent Israeli-Palestinian efforts.

On Obama's Vision for 'Arab Spring' and Mideast Peace Process

Expert Roundup: Gauging Obama's Mideast Policy Speech
Did President Obama's speech on the Middle East succeed in outlining a clearer vision of the United States' approach to the region? CFR experts Elliott Abrams, Robert Danin, and Steven A. Cook offer different perspectives.

Op-Ed: Isobel Coleman: Obama's Middle Ground in a Restless Region
The inconsistencies in Obama's response to the Arab Spring stem from the fact that while the United States supports democracy and freedom, it often has strategic interests that come in conflict with those ideals, writes CFR's Isobel Coleman.

Must Read: New York Times: Half a Doctrine Will Have to Do
Obama seems to believe that half a doctrine is all he needs right now, writes David Sanger, saying it is a moment when American policy needs coherence, even as the president insists that a consistent set of tactics is impossible.

Must Read: Foreign Policy: The Middle East Crisis That Just Won't Go Away
In offering his ideas on future security arrangements of a demilitarized Palestinian state and borders, as well as other issues, Obama has presented too little too late, writes Salman Shaikh on

Must Read: Economist: You Can't Make Everyone Happy
Even those who approve of Obama's vision of an Israeli-Palestinian compromise are concerned that he has picked a fight he's not likely to win in the short run.

Must Read: The New Republic: How Far Apart Are Obama and Netanyahu Really?
Peace is only possible along the lines former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas explored during the 2006-2008 negotiations, writes William Galston.

On Netanyahu's Policy Options and Challenges

Must Read: Fareed Zakaria: Where Netanyahu Fails Himself and Israel
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's reference to "indefensible" 1967 borders is an anachronism. Israel's chief threats are from new technologies and demography.

Must Read: CNN: Maps, Land, and History: Why 1967 Still Matters
Israel insists on defensible borders. But as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pointed out recently, the 1967 boundaries delineate a country that is only nine miles wide and therefore indefensible, writes CNN's Tim Lister

Must Read: Michael Herzog: Israel Must Set Its Parameters for Peace
Israel's failure to offer its own peace initiative means that it will struggle to gain international support in calling on Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to choose peace with Israel over a deal with Hamas, writes Michael Herzog in the Financial Times.

Must Read: Dore Gold: Israel's 1967 Borders Aren't Defensible
Before the Six-Day War, the 1967 boundaries in the West Bank "only demarcated where five Arab armies were halted in their invasion of the nascent state of Israel nineteen years earlier. Legally, they formed only an armistice line, not a recognized international border," argues former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations Dore Gold in the Wall Street Journal. No Palestinian state ever existed that could have claimed these prewar lines.

Must Read: Peter Beinart: Netanyahu's Bizarre Response to Obama's Palestinian Proposal
Netanyahu's rejection of Obama's parameters for negotiation suggests a blind intransigence on the issues facing Israel and ignorance of the "diplomatic tsunami" Israel is about to face, Peter Beinart writes on

Must Read: Neve Gordon: Netanyahu and the One State Solution
Israel's unwillingness to compromise on key issues might annul a two-state solution, making only power-sharing viable, writes Neve Gordon on al-Jazeera.

On the Choices Facing Palestinian Leaders

Foreign Affairs: Robert Danin: The Palestinian Spring?
Despite the recent unity agreement between the Hamas and Fatah factions, the Palestinian leadership is committed to a dangerous course, writes CFR's Robert Danin. Reconciliation is unlikely, he says, and a UN vote granting Palestine membership in the General Assembly this September "could lead to unilateral Israeli actions on the ground and renewed Israeli-Palestinian violence."

Must Read: Economist: The View from Palestine
There was much to please Palestinians in the president's speech, according to the Economist, but an array of factors, including the fact that the "Arab spring has further increased pressure on Abbas to bow to popular appeals for intra-Palestinian reconciliation and the unilateral pursuit of Palestinian core demands," could work against progress in talks.

Must Read: Foreign Policy: Should the Palestinians Recognize Israel as a Jewish State?
The idea that Palestinians must formally recognize Israel's "Jewish character" is fairly new and is being used by Netanyahu as a delaying tactic, writes Hussein Ibish.

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