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May 5th, 2009
09:53 AM ET

Rubin: Huge stumbling blocks to Mideast peace

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel is prepared to resume peace negotiations.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel is prepared to resume peace negotiations.

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.

Filed under: Middle East
soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. Ernie in LA

    There will never be peace in the Middle East.

    May 6, 2009 at 1:56 am |
  2. Dick McDonald

    The problem is not with the Palistanians, but with Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, and others who have vowed to wipe Israel off the map.

    The poor Palistinians are puppets of these evil people.

    May 6, 2009 at 1:49 am |
  3. Jack

    I don't think most Palestinians support Hamas. Do Christian Palestinians support Hamas? I doubt it. Women? No way. The Palestinians missed their chance (yet again again) when Israel had more moderate leadership.

    May 6, 2009 at 12:46 am |
  4. Bill Gordon

    With Hamas in the wings,and Abbas fully aware that he is no more than a lacky at this point in time,who is supposed to do the negotiating. It appears Netanyahu is prepared to go back to the quartet road map,and follow through on it ,but only in it's propper continuity.

    May 6, 2009 at 12:24 am |
  5. Thomas

    Let's get real. First, western countries are watching an Islamic theofascist movement gathering power, oppressing their own people and spoiling for a fight with the West. This is nothing new. Islamic rulers fought the West for seven hundred years. Reagan, wimped out when Hizbollah murdered over 200 American servicemen and that sent a signal to Iran, Saudi Arabia, etc. The Iranians, as well as Iraqis and much of the Arab world use Stalin and Hitler as their organizing role models. The Palestinians are fascist thugs in the hire of radical Sunnis and Shias. Palestinians have gravitated to Hitler, Stalin and then to Saddam Hussain. Peace is possible if Palestinian Arabs let Israel live free and and in Peace. But, the Palestinians opt instead for being belligerent while in the pay of IRan and Saudi.

    May 6, 2009 at 12:22 am |
  6. abdur azad

    I do not buy Rubin's assesment. Hurdles are there. But to a statesman no hurdle is unsurmountable. It may take some time. But if Obama can impress upon Nataniyahu that it was for their best interest to come to a solutioj, I think Israel would soften their tone.

    May 5, 2009 at 11:50 pm |
  7. Tal Hogan

    I agree with Mr. Rubin's sentiments, there is a low chance of seeing any successful breakthrough soon between the Palestinians and Israel. I would like to add, however, that the U.S. may have some leverage in the future with Israel if the Obama administration opens a dialogue with the Iranians. Any normalization between Iran and the U.S. is probably viewed with skepticism by Israel, who are very concerened with Iran's nuclear ambitions and rightfully so. The U.S would have some levarage with Israel in any two-state discussions by indicating a willingness to remain tough with Iran concerning its nuclear pursuits.

    May 5, 2009 at 11:43 pm |
  8. marat

    This is RIDICULOUS–the U.S. is trying to push the "2-state" thing down the throats of the Israelis, while the Israelis have experienced nothing but rockets and terrorist attacks by Hamas and a slew of other nutty Islamist groups that Hamas has given its blessings to. All of this after the Israelis vacated EVERY square inch of Gaza. What the hell kind of "state" can be expected on Israel's borders?? HERE is what is needed–for Obama and his Peacenik dreaming handlers to DEMAND that Hamas TOTALLY re-write their VERY CHARTER which clearly calls for "the DESTRUCTION of Israel." Hamas will NEVER EVER DO THIS. Why?? Because they are an Iranian proxy whose FIRST dedication is NOT to the Palestinian people, but to eliminate Israel from the face of the earth–EVEN if it takes 500 or more years. Wake up, America, Europe–this IS the Islamist agenda. The U.S. would NEVER EVER accept an Islamist state that calls for the annhilation of the U.S. in what is now Tijuana or any other area along the U.S. border. I hope Israel RESISTS U.S. pressure–this pressure is driven by one thing alone–the U.S. belief that it can trade Israel's security for the cooperation of Iran in trying to exit Iraq and, ultimately Afghanistan. IT WILL FAIL because Islamist regimes will play Obama like a fiddle. The Islamic agenda for domination is INTRACTABLE. Sadly, Obama is presently trading off the security of the United States in the process of his ideological dreamworld of "engaging" terrorist states. Where is John Bolton when we need him......

    May 5, 2009 at 11:04 pm |