Congress advised not to rush Palestinian state in post-Mubarak period
Thursday, February 17, 2011 E-Mail this story Free Headline Alerts
WASHINGTON — Congress, amid unrest throughout the Middle East, has been warned against supporting a plan for the imminent establishment of a Palestinian state.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee was urged to restrain the administration of President Barack Obama's plans for the establishment of a Palestinian state by 2012.
A leading U.S. analyst asserted that such a U.S. effort, amid the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, would merely alienate Israel at a time when Washington required democratic allies in the Middle East.
"In this environment, it would be a mistake for the administration to believe that now is a propitious moment for grand peace plans or for made-in-America bridging proposals," Robert Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said. "Given the seismic change on Israel's southern frontier, such a U.S. approach would only confirm the worst fears of Israeli leaders and Israeli public opinion about U.S. understanding of Israel's security predicament."
Congressional sources said the administration was diverted by the Egyptian crisis from efforts to establish a Palestinian state in the West Bank. They said some senior officials in the White House and State Department, however, wanted the administration to return to focus on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process as soon as Egypt was deemed as stable.
But Satloff, in an assessment shared by House committee chairwoman Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, asserted that Washington must work with Israel to adjust to an unstable Middle East. Satloff cited such issues as the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip, arms smuggling from Egypt's Sinai Peninsula as well as counter-insurgency cooperation.
"Working with Israel to address these new concerns should be a top priority," Satloff said on Feb. 9. "Leaders of both countries should commence immediate consultations on ways to strengthen the strategic partnership between these two democratic allies, in substance and in perception."
Satloff stressed that Washington must continue to support an Arab-Israeli peace agreement in wake of Mubarak's ouster. He said the introduction of democratic regimes in the Middle East could change long-standing opposition to Israel, particularly by the Palestinian Authority. One option was that Washington help the PA conduct free and fair elections.
"In this context, the Obama administration should explore whether these two factors have changed the political calculus on the part of the PA leadership to the extent that they are now willing to engage in substantive negotiations," Satloff said. "Ideas that may have been unacceptable to Palestinians in the past — ranging from Israeli demands for long-term security presence in the Jordan Valley to incrementalist or partial arrangements short of a full peace agreement — may today be ready for negotiation."