'Obama vision' becomes basis for Mideast peace

Sunday, June 05, 2011 |  Ryan Jones

Just as Israeli officials feared, US President Barack Obama's "vision" of pushing Israel back to it's 1967 borders has become the basis for international peace efforts in the Middle East.

Last week, France offered to host renewed peace talks based on the "Obama vision." Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas at the weekend accepted the French proposal, even though it would likely end his campaign to unilaterally declare a Palestinian state at the UN in September.

According to the Bethlehem-based Palestinian news agency Ma'an, Abbas and his advisers have realized that the UN statehood bid is a dead end, as the US will never allow the motion to pass in the Security Council.

But it appears just the threat of taking such unilateral action has paid off. A former adviser to US presidents on Middle East issues said that Obama's "1967 borders" policy speech was an astounding and unprecedented adoption of Arab positions regarding the peace process with Israel.

If Obama's stated conditions are to become the starting point for new negotiations, Abbas has gained far more than he would have at the UN.

However, Abbas will now have to contend with his new government partners in Hamas, who called his acceptance of the French proposal "hasty and misguided."

Hamas sees no point in negotiations with Israel based on the 1967 border, or otherwise, as the group remains dedicated to seeing a Palestinian state fully replace Israel.

Concerned about seeing Israel further isolated, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said Israel, too, is positively examining the French proposal. Netanyahu did, however, raise reservations over Paris' plan to reach an agreement on borders before broaching the topic of "Palestinian refugees."

During his visit to Washington last month, Netanyahu was widely seen as schooling Obama after the latter pushed the idea of returning to the 1967 borders.

Netanyahu, like most Israelis, views the 1967 borders as indefensible, and is not prepared to uproot all Jewish life in Judea and Samaria (the so-called "West Bank") nor to sever the Jews' ancient claims to those lands.

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