President Obama is meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres today. Yesterday, Peres attended a meeting of the pro-Israeli lobbyist group AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee). Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to the committee last night via satellite, saying it's time to talk peace again.
“We're prepared to resume peace negotiations without any delay and without any preconditions. The sooner the better. “
James Rubin, former assistant secretary of state and Columbia University professor, joined Kiran Chetry on CNN’s “American Morning” Tuesday. He says despite Washington’s efforts for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, the prospect of success any time soon is very low.
Kiran Chetry: Analysts are noting that we did not hear either Peres or Netanyahu say they support a Palestinian state. What's going on in the Israeli side right now?
James Rubin: Well it looks like the new government there, Prime Minister Netanyahu, is trying to avoid committing to a Palestinian state and trying to get something for himself when he does commit it. So he's a real bargainer. He bargains with the United States, he bargains with his allies, just as much as he bargains with - with his adversaries, the Palestinians. So he's trying to come over to the United States, meet with President Obama, and get something for saying the obvious, what everybody agrees to, which is there needs to be a two-state solution. He's seeing if he can get something out of America for doing that.
Chetry: On the other side, you have a difficult situation where there are two factions if you will. There's the Palestinian Authority that the world recognizes. Then there’s the Hamas leadership that have the support of most Palestinian people and Hamas' political leader saying they’re not going to recognize Israel. How do you begin this process?
Rubin: That's what Prime Minister Netanyahu has on his side. He's allowed to say all of the things you just said to the United States. So why should they make concessions? The problem is that the Palestinians have this split leadership. On one side, Hamas, the group that’s taken control in Gaza. They just had an interview with their leader in today's newspaper. And he's trying to say he wants to talk to the new president in the White House, trying to be in the group like Iran and Cuba and North Korea that President Obama is prepared to talk to because Hamas is not in that group. But he's not willing to take the step that everybody is waiting for them to take, which is to simply recognize the state of Israel, not to agree to specific negotiations on specific issues. He won't do that.
Chetry: That seems like a huge stumbling block to getting anything worked out for this administration.
Rubin: Absolutely. I doubt the day will come when this administration is prepared to go to, let's face it, a meeting of the American Israeli Political Action Committee like his meeting today in Washington and say, you know what, we're going to meet with Hamas despite the fact they won't recognize Israel. That's something President Obama said he wouldn't do. So I don't think it’s going to happen. And those who think it is, I think are just dreaming.
Chetry: Where does that leave us? The new administration is pledging to tackle it. It seems we’re back to square one.
Rubin: It's not good news at all. There are two big issues - the Palestinian issue and the Iran issue. Neither of them has seen any progress in that region. The Israelis are going to say why should we move on the Palestinian issue unless we solve the problem with Iran. The Palestinians and the Israelis aren't getting along. So what I would say is the effort is being made by Washington, the things they need to do to at least try. But the prospect of success any time soon is very, very low. The only wild card possible is an agreement with Syria, between Syria and Israel that people think is plausible. Prime Minister Netanyahu has done this sort of negotiating in the past with the Syrian leader. The issues are not that difficult if both sides want to do it. That's our best chance – Syria, but even that I would say is well under 50-50.