While the Obama Administration has been pushing for a resumption of peace negotiations in recent weeks, Israeli and Palestinian officials have rebuffed these efforts and refused to cooperate. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refuses to bow down to international pressure to halt settlement building in East Jerusalem and Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority will not come to the table until Israel vows to do so. The stubborness of both sides has put peace negotiations on hold. But who is really to blame?
The Obama Administration has made it clear to Israel that it must stop settlement construction, and its their refusal to do so will be disastrous to the negotations. And the Palestinian Authority’s chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, has met with American diplomats in Israel in an attempt to encourage the US to continue pressuring Israel.
On April 2, 2010, The New York Times presented a somewhat balanced viewpoint on who is responsible for the freeze in the Mideast peace process. They chose to publish three letters to the editor in support of Israel’s efforts and three on the side of the Obama Administration’s efforts.
Not surprisingly, Abraham Foxman from the Anti-Defamation League, on Israel’s side, stated that the Administration overreacted to the timing of Israel’s announcement of settlement construction. But in reality, a majority of Jewish and Middle East observers believe that the U.S. must display a strong backbone in order to be taken seriously in negotiations. Criticism of Obama was balanced by Jeff Warner from California who pointed out that settlements are illegal. Another good argument in support of Obama’s stance, made by Pat Murphy from Idaho, is that continuing U.S. aid to Israel without stricter conditions is not helping the situation.
The New York Times, compared to other media outlets like the Washington Post, has provided a more accurate representation of the massive public support for Obama’s efforts. While letters to the editor have relatively low readership in most newspapers, the NYT has a very passionate and well-educated audience, with strong opinions on Middle Eastern issues. And they have made the right decision by showing both sides of the issue. What would be interesting to find out is how many letters were received on each side of the debate. Would there be more support on the side of Obama or Netanyahu? Either way, we applaud the NYT for their objective coverage of the issue and hope more media outlets follow their example.