As President Barack Obama made his debut trip to the Middle East, many in Washington, D.C. were left deliberating on whether his Cairo speech would focus on a lasting solution to the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Also at the center of attention was the President’s view on Iran, which is seen not only as a rising nuclear power but also as an impediment to the Palestinian-Israeli peace process. Iran is a staunch supporter of Palestine and refuses to recognize Israel’s independence.
Pundits and critics alike predicted that President Obama’s speech would not bring anything new to the table and criticized the U.S. government’s insistence on the two-state solution as a viable way out of the Middle East dispute. The so-called “two-state solution would give both the Israelis and Palestinians sovereign nations in what is now Israel.
Speaking on the eve of the President’s speech at the Heritage Foundation think tank in Washington, D.C., Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) said that the two-state solution was an idea that had run out of time. “The legacy of the sixteen years [of] two-state policy is one of a lost opportunity,” said Brownback. “We’ve spent billions of dollars and diplomatic coverage [on the conflict] than you could imagine in the history of mankind,” he continued.
The Senator also champions for Israel’s sovereignty, calling for a new approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. “It is important that we look at what has worked and that which has not worked in the past sixteen years,” he said. Citing the two-state solution as a failure, Senator Brownback said that the wise thing to do is to identify the policy’s weaknesses and to focus on alternatives. “The rational thing to do is to find out why this has not worked and to see if there is another way.”
During his speech, President Obama expressed his support for the two-state solution and was reported by the press as calling for “compromise and understanding between ‘two peoples with legitimate aspirations.’”
At the Heritage Foundation event, which was co-hosted by the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), former head of the Israeli National Security Council Retired General Major Giora Eiland said “The maximum the Israeli government can offer the Palestinians is far much less than any Palestinian leader would ever accept.”
Former head of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Hon. R. James Woolsey cautioned that the Palestinian-Israeli situation should not deflect attention from Iran’s nuclear potential. “Today, we have another regional power growing, adding to its nuclear capability,” he said.
Woolsey, who served in the Clinton Administration, said that the U.S. should take tough measures to curb Iran’s nuclear efforts. He called on the U.S. government to place economic sanctions on Iran and cut off any business relations. “The worst thing you could do is depend on idealism to triumph,” he argued.
While extending an olive branch to Iran, President Obama said that the Islamic state is at liberty to access its nuclear power, but within the confines of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The Cable News Network (CNN) quoted President Obama saying that, “any nation, including Iran should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.”