Taking A Pass On Peace

Israeli-Palestinian peace was not on the agenda at this week's AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington.  It was all tough talk on Iran, and with in a full machismo mode it looked like a war rally.

To no one's surprise, President Obama made a brief reference to the peace process in his speech to AIPAC this week, but no call to return to the negotiating table.  He essentially put it on the back burner for the foreseeable future:

"I make no apologies for pursuing peace.  Israel's own leaders understand the necessity of peace….Of course, peace is hard to achieve….The upheaval and uncertainty in Israel's neighborhood makes it that much harder…And the division within the Palestinian leadership makes it harder still…. just as we encourage Israel to be resolute in the pursuit of peace — we have continued to insist that any Palestinian partner must recognize Israel’s right to exist, and reject violence, and adhere to existing agreements."

But Prime Minister Netanyahu didn't mention Palestinians or peace process even once.

For both men, as it was for the entire AIPAC conference, the focus was Iran, Iran, Iran. 

None of the three Republicans seeking to replace Obama brought it up, either.  They devoted their time to portraying the president as abandoning and endangering Israel.

Not surprisingly, the Palestinians didn't see it that way. 

Saeb Erekat, the Palestinians' chief negotiator with Israel, said he was disappointed with Obama's "unprecedented support" for Israel and his failure to  "touch on urging Israel to accept the two-state solution, halt settlement activities, and stop imposing facts on the ground."

Hanan Ashrawi, a senior PLO official, called Obama's speech "demeaning," adding:

 “We couldn’t believe that the U.S. president is out there to prove that he is good for Israel, that for three years he has done everything Israel wanted.’’

Only Shimon Peres among the prominent AIPAC speakers showed much interest in the peace process.  The Israeli President, who received the Nobel Peace Prize for his work for peace, said:

"The Palestinians are our neighbors for life. Peace can and must be achieved, a peace based on a two state-solution: a Jewish state – Israel, an Arab state – Palestine."

That got only a smattering of applause, but the audience was much more enthusiastic when he said, "Peace is always our first option. But, if we are forced to fight, trust me — we shall prevail." 

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.