Israel has crossed the line and is jeopardizing peace with Hamas over its controversial plans to build 1,500 homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the founder and president of the Arab American Institute believes.
“It’s not just Hamas that says a red line’s been crossed; the entire European continent has as well,’’ Dr. James Zogby, an expert on Arab concerns and author of “Arab Voices: What They Are Saying To Us And Why It Matters.’’
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“And it’s not 1500, actually, it’s 6,000 new units being planned in that southern rim that will only thicken the Jewish-only colonies and make even more difficult people from Bethlehem travelling to Jerusalem.
“You can imagine if it were 2,000 years ago, Mary and Joseph never could’ve gotten from Bethlehem to Jerusalem or from Nazareth even to Bethlehem . . . So it’s a horrible thing that has happened.’’
Zogby says a new poll conducted by the Arab American Institute indicates attitudes in the Middle East have hardened towards the ongoing peace process and whether it can eventually work.
“That trust has broken down. There are very difficult issues and divisions … America itself has to be able to put forward a plan and say to these Israeli and Palestinian people that this is it; this is what we’re doing,’’ he says.
According to Zogby, President Barack Obama shouldn’t be faulted for the lack of progress in a lasting peace, but “where he erred was … [in 2011] he made a great speech about the ’67 borders with land swaps and that’s the approach we have to take, and then he let it drop and let it drop.
“The next day, [Benjamin] Netanyahu comes to the White House, wags his finger in his face, lectures our president and then a couple of days later the Republican majority in Congress invites Netanyahu to a joint session where he gets 29 standing ovations for defying our own government on the approach to peace.’’
Instead, Obama should have worked hard with Congress and the nation to sell the speech so that he couldn’t “be undercut by a maneuvering foreign leader who is able to use public opinion in America against our interests and against our own policy,’’ Zogby says.
“So if there’s a will, there’s a way — but it’s going to take hard work to get there.’’
But Zogby believes the White House has put the peace process on the back burner for now because of other pressing issues facing the nation such as the tense fiscal cliff negotiations.
However, “I don’t think that we’ve got much of a window left and especially with Israel moving forward, now, in this ring around Jerusalem . . . which, if it’s completed, will completely sever the West Bank from the north and south,’’ he says.
“It would be devastating for peace. Israel is burying the peace process. It’s burying the solution and creating for itself an inevitable one-state scenario if they continue to move forward on this.’’
Obama, he says, began his second term with a vote of confidence from a number of places in the Middle East “and if he uses that well, he can do some good things. He simply can’t squander this moment.
“He got a boost in the beginning of the first term. He’s getting a boost in the beginning of the second term. I don’t think there’s going to be a third time. He ought to use it and use it well now.’’
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