Over the last year or so, President Obama has slowly been commuting the sentences of a number of non-violent criminals and drug offenders. Even if you find yourself criticizing President Obama more than you praise him, there is no question that he made the right decision here. Reducing sentences of non-violent drug offenders who were harshly over-sentenced is the right thing to do from both a moral and an economic standpoint. All praise to President Obama there. That being said, there is one prisoner Obama hasn’t attempted to free. A prisoner Mr. Obama hinted at freeing early on in his presidency. It is time we recognize Palestine as a state, and free them from the prison they currently reside under.
With the president’s denouement quickly approaching, the time to join the 137 countries who recognize Palestinian statehood is now. On January 20th, we will have a new president, with new, unpredictable foreign policy goals. If President Obama does not act within the next few months, we may never see a two state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. If President Obama does not act within the next few months, more and more Israeli settlers will establish residence on Palestinian land.
In 2009, President Obama called upon Israel to freeze illegal settlements on Palestinian land. Obama’s plea ended up having little effect, as more and more Israeli’s ignored his call. Again, in 2011 Obama made it clear that Israel and Palestine should revert back to the original borders set in 1967. Again, Obama’s heed bared little clout. The time for talking is over. We need to take action and recognize the existence of Palestine. I cannot stress it enough, if we do not recognize that Palestinians have the right to live on their own land right now, Palestinian’s may never see anything other than Israeli military occupation.
In 1978, Jimmy Carter proudly quoted Matthew 5:9 saying, “blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be God’s children.” Mr. Carter dedicated a considerable amount of time in the first half of his presidency to establish everlasting peace between Israel and their neighbors. Working with Egyptian President Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, Mr. Carter helped broker peace between two nations that had been at war for 31 years. The treaty, which would come to be known as the Camp David Accords, called for a gradual withdrawal of Israeli troops in the Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. Camp David also established diplomatic relations between Israel and Egypt. While the treaty settled tensions between Israel and Egypt, it failed to address long-term Palestinian-Israeli relations.
Now, 40 years later it’s up to Obama to be the peacekeeper. The situation in Israel-Palestine is unsustainable, with tensions escalating to dangerous levels every few years. Recognizing Palestine’s right to statehood is certainly not going to create everlasting peace between Israeli’s and Palestinians, but it will help. U.S. recognition will push other countries and international institutions, including the United Nations, to acknowledge Palestine’s legitimacy. Future U.N. resolutions and U.S. diplomacy must look at Palestinians and Israeli’s as equals. Then, and only then, can we push for a fair, two state solution with both countries reverting back to the borders set prior to the Six-Day War in 1967.
I’ll conclude with words from the original peacekeeper (Jimmy Carter) himself, “I fear for the spirit of Camp David. We must not squander this chance.”