The election in November between President Obama and Mitt Romney could have important consequences for the peace process. I believe that the uncertainty over who will win the election could and perhaps should convince the Palestinians that it would be in their own best interest to restart the peace process as soon as possible.
Those are the words of World Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder. This thinly veiled threat comes ahead of Mitt Romney‘s planned visit to Israel to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu as well as opposition leaders and other political figures.
There have not been any negotiations between Israel and Palestine since the Palestinians walked away from an offer, made by then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, in August of 2008.
Mitt Romney will be keen to play up his foreign policy credentials during this trip and, if elected, would inherit a problem not solved by 12 previous American presidents.
What Ronald Lauder is essentially suggesting is that Romney is likely to be far more pro-Israel than Barack Obama, putting the Palestinians at an immediate disadvantage at the negotiating table. So heis suggesting that now may be the last chance they have for a good deal for quite some time.
Romney’s comments will likely be watched closely by Jewish voters back in the U.S. who traditionally vote Democrat. If Romney can convince them he will push the Israel-Palestine question back towards the top of the international agenda, he may succeed in winning over some of those voters.
In the last 18 months, that conflict has fallen off the radar, being completely overshadowed by Iran’s nuclear program, the Arab Spring, the Muslim Brotherhood’s victory in Egypt a few weeks ago, and the ongoing atrocities in Syria. Lauder certainly thinks a deal is possible with the Palestinians.
There has never been a better time to make a peace treaty between the two peoples. If both sides can sit down, I think a deal could be made quickly. I fear that unless something happens to restart negotiations in the next several months, it could lead to another Palestinian intifada.
Having been there myself — seen Jerusalem and been into Palestine — one thing is abundantly clear: The presence of the three great monotheisms is making the problem infinitely worse. If it were just a dispute over land, it would have been solved by now. Yet again, the prospect of real and lasting peace is being derailed by people’s imaginary friends.
It will be very interesting to see how Romney handles himself during the visit, and just how much reference, if any, he makes to the role religion plays in the dispute. My guess is he will do what countless others before him have done — pretend it isn’t even an issue.