Israel abuzz with Obama Plan rumors
US solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict reportedly include UN administration of Jerusalem's holy sites and no right of return for Palestinian refugees.
The Middle East has been abuzz in anticipation of the peace plan US President Barack Obama is expected to unveil in Cairo next month. Some who can't wait to hear official details have extracted what they claim is a preview of it, reported today in Israeli newspapers and the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi.Skip to next paragraph
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The so-called "Obama Plan" outlined by these reports is not radically different from those proposed by other Middle East interlocutors. But it boldly tackles some of the thorniest issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that other plans, such as the 1993 Oslo Accords, never resolved.
The solutions, which include a Palestinian state adjacent to Israel, would require both Israelis and Palestinians to cross some of their self-declared red lines.
Palestinians would have to give up the demand for their refugees' "right of return" to areas that are now part of Israel proper, and would instead have to settle for compensation or the option of moving to the West Bank or Gaza Strip.
The capital of the Palestinian state would be in East Jerusalem, which is currently under Israeli control. Most controversially, the plan includes a proposal that the Old City – with sites holy to the three major monotheistic religions – would become an international zone under the flag of the United Nations. Such an arrangement was proposed in the 1947 UN partition plan but was never implemented.
Mayor: Splitting Jerusalem is 'wishful thinking'
The status of Jerusalem and the Palestinian refugee issue have in the past been major deal-breakers.
Mkhaimar Abusada, a political scientist at Al-Azhar University in Gaza, says that on the issue of refugees, many Palestinians are prepared for realistic solutions.
"Most people know that they will not see the return of millions of Palestinians into Israel, or what's known as historic Palestine," he says. "Deep in our hearts we know it isn't possible, but people would like to see an acknowledgement of Israel's moral and historic responsbility."
But the idea of putting the holy sites of Jerusalem under international control is something Hamas, he says, as well as many other Muslims, will not accept.
"Palestinians would more likely accept this formula on the refugee than it would the internationalization of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is full of Islamic holy places over which Palestinains are not ready to make concessions," Dr. Abusada says.