US President Barack Obama in his speech before the UN General Assembly last week said the Arab and Muslim world had to stop using the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as an excuse for all the Middle East’s woes.
For decades, Arab leaders, and not a few Western power brokers, have asserted the lack of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was ultimately the source of all other troubles in the region, or at least made solving other problems impossible.
Obama said that he, for one, now sees the situation differently.
“The situation in Iraq and Syria and Libya should cure anybody of the illusion that the Arab-Israeli conflict is the main source of problems in the region,” said the American leader. “For far too long, that’s been used as an excuse to distract people from problems at home.”
Two days later, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas tried his hardest to counter Obama’s position by painting the summer’s Gaza war as one of the most destructive and devastatingly influential conflagrations in modern history.
Washington wasn’t impressed.
“President Abbas’ speech…included offensive characterizations that were deeply disappointing and which we reject,” said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki. “Such provocative statements are counterproductive and undermine efforts to create a positive atmosphere and restore trust between the parties.”
Abbas’ tirade notwithstanding, the rest of Obama’s speech made it clear that he will continue to press Israel to make concessions to the Palestinian leadership regardless of how volatile and hostile it becomes.