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Is the Israeli-Palestinian peace process starting up again? 

He’s been in office for only four months, but President Obama’s already pretty much solved all of America’s problems.

We’re still in a recession, but Obama’s stimulus program, as well as his CPR on the nation’s financial system, has largely abated economists’ worries that we’re entering Great Depression 2: Even More Depressing.

He has extended health care coverage to millions of needy children, kick-started cutting-edge medical research by lifting Bush’s hypocritical restrictions on stem cell research, and mandated the production of more fuel-efficient cars.

And any day now, he’s going to nominate a pro-choice U.S. Supreme Court justice, as well as sign legislation allowing me to carry concealed firearms in national parks. My lifelong dream of operating a combination pistol range/abortion clinic next to Old Faithful is one step closer!

He’s getting so good at this president stuff that he’s now turning his attention to helping other countries.

On May 18, Obama had Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over to the White House for a chat.

The meeting was a milestone for two reasons.

It was the first tête-à-tête between two pioneering historical figures. Obama, the first black president of the United States, hosting Netanyahu, only the ninth Jewish prime minister of Israel. I mean, wow.

Secondly, the meeting marks the symbolic restarting of U.S. involvement in the Middle East peace process after eight years of harmful neglect.

Bush left steaming piles of political poo in so many places (the economy, Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea, Iran, Somalia, etc.) that his epic failure in Israel is a bit overshadowed.

Does anyone remember Bush’s vaunted “road map” to peace in the Middle East?

(Pause for awkward silence)

Exactly.

In 2002, Bush announced a “plan” for peace in the Middle East. The plan bullet-pointed a series of steps to be enacted by Israeli and Palestinian leaders that, over three years, was supposed to culminate in a final peace treaty between Israel, Palestine and the entire Arab world.

I put “plan” in sarcastic quotation marks because it wasn’t actually a plan. It was a half-assed to-do list that the Bush administration did zero to implement. If Bush’s road map was a real peace initiative, then me writing “Step 1: Build rocket ship. Step 2: Fly to the moon” is a space mission.

American involvement is a prerequisite for peace in the Middle East. The only successful peace deals between Israel and its neighbors (the Israel-Egypt treaty in 1979 and the Israel-Jordan treaty in 1994) were brokered by the U.S.

But don’t be confused: Just because American involvement is a prerequisite of success does not make it a guarantee of success. President Clinton’s vigorous attempt to broker a final Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty in 2000 failed miserably.

Obama’s popularity and political savvy will be a helpful tool in pushing the peace process forward, but his popularity with American voters isn’t going to make Israelis and Palestinians suddenly jettison longstanding demands and grievances.

Israel-Palestine isn’t the promised land. It’s the overpromised land. Too many people are demanding too much from a tiny strip of dirt.

A peace treaty can’t even be drafted, much less signed or honored, until Israeli and Palestinian leaders demonstrate a willingness to demand less of the other.

Leaders of Hamas, for example, will have to publicly acknowledge that Israel has a right to exist. Hamas still cites as an official goal the elimination of Israel.

Israel will not only have to stop building illegal settlements on the occupied West Bank, but they’re going to have to surrender many of the ones they’ve already built.

And Hamas needs to stop lobbing rockets at Israeli towns.

The Palestinian right of return must be dealt with. International law allows for the return of war refugees and their descendents to their original homes. However, because the Palestinian refugee community now totals at least 4 million people, a mass return would render Jews a minority in Israel. Being majority Jewish is the whole point of Israel.

And who can forget terrorism, Israeli checkpoints, the Golan Heights, the status of Jerusalem, sharing water, etc.

Until the White House starts hinting that solutions to each of those problems is emerging, don’t call anything Obama says or a does “a peace process.”
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