After the Recipe, It's Time for the Meal
Gadi Baltiansky, The Huffington Post
All the speeches have been made, and the analysts have had their say. Now the time for words has passed, and the real test begins. Was President Obama's Middle East address a speech, or a serious policy plan?
If it was the former, OK. It was a good speech. But the controversy over language about borders was almost certainly overblown, because words alone will ultimately do very little to advance the political process.
If it was the latter, now is time for Obama do something about it. His address laid out a promising recipe for Middle East peace, but what we want is the meal. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. If he is serious about bringing the parties to meaningful negotiations that have a real chance of concluding a final status agreement, he has to take action.
President Obama has options. One is to invite the parties to Washington and see who shows up. If Hamas is going to block the political process and make the Palestinians a non-partner, President Abbas will not get on a plane. Then we will know for sure what Palestinian unity means for the peace process.
The same is true for Prime Minister Netanyahu. If he is as serious about making peace as he is about making speeches, he will show up. And if he does not, we will know once and for all what we are dealing with. After all the pundits have delivered their analysis, after all the guesses have been made, it is time for us to know.
If he does not want to bring the parties to Washington, President Obama could get behind the French initiative to jumpstart dialogue with an international conference. Letters of invitation to these events typically include terms of reference for negotiations, which must themselves be negotiated -- already a worthwhile endeavor.
Alternatively, he could put forward a United Nations Security Council resolution that would replace 242 as the basis for negotiations. The basic formulation of such a resolution should be based on the principles he laid out in his address: borders based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps; detailed security arrangements; recognition of Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people with equal rights for all. These parameters are already well-known. And in fact, they have already been agreed upon by senior Israeli and Palestinian signatories of the Geneva Accord.
Barring a successful diplomatic effort now, Palestinians will seek recognition of their statehood from the United Nations come September. Only serious U.S. engagement can get the parties back to negotiations -- which are, for both sides, a far preferable path to ending the conflict.
To be a leader, and not merely another commentator, President Obama cannot stop at words. He has shared with us his recipe for an agreement; let's hope he is committed to delivering the final product. We're ready for the meal.
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