President-elect Barack Obama intends to start his presidency with a bang by rapidly concluding an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement based on the 2002 Saudi peace proposal.
That according to sources close to Obama who spoke to London’s Sunday Times.
Advisors to the president-elect said they had convinced him to give the Israeli-Palestinian peace process top billing during his first year in office, as the enormous goodwill he currently enjoys will make it easier to oversee a final status agreement.
They also say that getting the Israelis and Palestinians to sign a peace deal would dramatically and instantaneously transform the mood across the region, bolstering friendly regimes and isolating extremists and the current Iranian regime.
The Times article indicated that Obama was more open to the idea of hitting the ground running on the Saudi initiative after both Israeli President Shimon Peres and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni reiterated their support for the proposal.
During his visit to Israel last summer, Obama’s advisors said that he privately told the Palestinians that Israel would be “crazy” not to accept the Saudi plan, which offers the Jewish state broad acceptance in the region in exchange for surrendering 100 percent of the eastern half of Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights.
If Livni wins Israel’s upcoming general election Obama is likely to find in her the partner he needs to get a deal based on the Saudi proposal signed by both sides.
But if Likud Party and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu becomes Israel’s next prime minister, as polls currently suggest, Obama may have to put the Israeli-Palestinian peace process on the back burner, as Netanyahu has vowed to freeze land-for-peace negotiations.
The Palestinians themselves could be another wrench in the gears.
While Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has made a show of supporting the Saudi proposal, he continues to insist on the right to flood Israel with millions of so-called “Palestinian refugees,” an issue that the Saudi plan avoids and that all Israeli leaders say is a red line.
The Palestinian Authority is also scheduled to have elections of its own in January. Abbas has declared that he will not allow elections at this time, but not all Palestinians are happy about that, and certain groups could take action that leads to the current regime’s downfall.