Will Obama Surprise the Israelis?
What impacts will Obama’s visit of the occupied territories have on the region?
This visit will be made following the US Secretary of State’s trip to this region. In fact, after hearing the views of different countries, the US President now has the opportunity to discuss the results of what was heard and studied. On the other side, Obama has begun his second presidential term. Furthermore, elections were held in the occupied territories and the parties affiliated with Netanyahu and a few moderate parties have won and they must form the cabinet. Hence, there is the possibility for both sides, the US and Israel, to make decisions and they have enough time to enforce these decisions. But it seems that the US will attempt to solve the most important issue of the Middle East, i.e. the issue of Palestine. Within this framework, four main issues will be discussed in the negotiations with both the Palestinian Authority and the regime in Tel Aviv.
What are the most important issues of discussion for both sides in these negotiations?
The main issue of Obama’s talks with Tel Aviv is the necessity of controlling Israel’s behaviors and methods with regard to Iran. Obama will ask the Zionist officials not to follow unilateral measures. Of course, Obama will promise them to continue the US’ financial and arms support of Tel Aviv so that the superiority of this regime would be maintained in the region. In exchange, it will ask the Israelis to refrain from taking any unilateral measures and not make the situation in the Middle East more complicated for the US.
Another issue which will be discussed in Obama’s visit is the issue of Syria. Naturally, while reiterating that the US will help strengthen the Syrian opposition, as it has expressed its readiness to do so in the recent negotiations and has even shown a green light to sending arms aids, it seems that Israel is not willing to enter expanded measures against Syria and it is mostly interested in small-scale measures. But the US will assure Israel that Israel will not be threatened.
The next issue which is interesting for both sides and will be discussed in the upcoming talks is the regional developments, particularly the developments in Egypt which have created new problems for Israel, which is concerned about the growth of Islamism among the governments on one hand, and the growth of radicalism in Salafi and Takfiri groups, on the other. This issue can threaten both the regional governments and Israel. This will be a common issue which will be discussed in the US-Israel talks. The last issue is related to the negotiations of compromise between Israel and the Palestinians. The possibility of the emergence of the third Intifada threatens Israel. But, it does not seem that it will have positive results for the Palestinians, except the freedom of some Palestinian prisoners, but there will be no change in Israel’s policies with regard to the settlements.
Shimon Peres has stated that this visit can be the beginning of the Middle East peace process. Will the issue of the settlements, in your opinion, allow progress to be made in the peace process at the present time?
It does not seem so. The Israeli President might express his opinions in this regard to provide the atmosphere for propaganda. But, this readiness does not exist in the government of Israel. The reason is that the attacks against Gaza and the assassination of Palestinians are still going on and the trend of capturing Palestinians is also growing. Besides, the building of Jewish settlements also continues. In addition, the destruction in Quds and the insulting behavior shown inside al-Aqsa Mosque have been unprecedented and these behaviors and trends will continue. None of these trends will help the peace process.
Hamas has warned the Palestinian Authority to be cautious about this trip and be careful so that this visit would not create problems for the national reconciliation process. Do you think it is possible that Obama’s trip would create challenges for the closeness of Fatah and Hamas?
Obama will exert pressure on the Palestinian Authority to encourage Hamas to accept Israel’s existence and withdraw from armed resistance. The leverage which will be used by Obama and the Zionist regime is the taxes of Palestinians who work inside the occupied territories. This tax must be deposited to the treasury of the Palestinian Authority. This is one of the possible pressures, and naturally, this could impact, to some extent, the peace process between Fatah and Hamas and disrupt it.
One of the Hamas leaders has said that Hamas does not have any objection to Obama’s visit to Gaza. Do you think such a visit can be imagined?
It seems impossible that such a visit will take place. Until there are security agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and lack thereof between Hamas and Israel, such a visit would seem impossible.