Thursday, May 26, 2011


On May 23, I was a panelist on the program Le 17/20 hosted by Michel Field on French news network LCI.

The round table debate took place in French and focused on US policy towards Israel and Palestine in the context of President Obama's recent address and Prime Minister Netanyahu's remarks before a joint session of the American Congress.

Here are the main points I raised:

- On this issue, the US domestic debate is complex and multifaceted. Emotional stances can be found on all sides of this issue, cutting across party lines. Even within the administration there was vivid discussion about what to include in the remarks. Following the President's speech, criticism came from both high-ranking Democrats (such as Harry Reid) as well as from Republicans.

- The role of Congress on this topic is particularly important as Israel's security is not only a foreign political, but also a domestic electoral, issue.

- President Obama's clearly stated position put the focus and pressure squarely back on the two leaders concerned, Abbas and Netanyahu. Now that the US had made its policy known, the questions rightly became: Who is serious about moving forward? Who will or will not make concessions? Who is ready to make peace? If the President's plan is rejected, by whom and on what basis?

- Regardless of the current impasse, President Obama was not wrong to tackle this issue immediately upon inauguration. By continuously refining and asserting the US's position from early on, Obama - if nothing else - created a steady psychological impact, gradually removing doubt that the US would again bend to the same recycled reticence towards negotiations. He created an ongoing narrative suggesting that results would be demanded. The question of psychological impact was first raised by a fellow panelist.

- Amy Greene