Commendably, the Obama administration is holding more negotiations in a renewed effort to solve the long-running Mideast conflict between Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs. The world community hopes for success -- but some problems threaten the peace process.
America's top generals have warned that U.S. closeness to Israel causes millions of Muslim Arabs to see America as an enemy. In a 2010 presentation to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Gen. David Petraeus voiced this worry. Now his successor, Gen. James Mattis, told the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado that "all the moderate Arabs who want to be with us" cannot openly support U.S. peace efforts because their countrymen see America only as Israel's guardian.
Gen. Mattis called the Mideast situation "unsustainable" because Israel won't relinquish its growing network of Jewish settlements in conquered Palestinian territory. We wonder if the new Washington talks, led by Secretary of State John Kerry, can make a breakthrough on this point.
Israel seized the Palestinian West Bank in the 1967 Six-Day War and has held it under military occupation ever since. The United Nations repeatedly ordered Israel to return the captured territory, but the order was ignored. Instead, hundreds of thousands of Israeli Jews poured into the occupied land and built communities.
In 1993, the Oslo Accord promised Palestinians a homeland in the captured region. At that time, only 200,000 Jewish settlers lived there. But their number swelled past a half-million, with Israeli troops shielding them against bitter Arabs. Repeated uprisings and terrorist attacks have killed thousands on each side. In the United Nations, many want to make Palestine a member country, even though it's under armed occupation.
Former President Jimmy Carter -- who won the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize for long humanitarian efforts -- wrote a book denouncing the Israeli occupation. He said:
"Some Israelis believe that they have the right to confiscate and colonize Palestinian land and try to justify the sustained subjugation and persecution of increasingly hopeless and aggravated Palestinians."
In response, Carter said, some Palestinians "react by honoring suicide bombers as martyrs to be rewarded in heaven, and consider the killing of Israelis as victories. In turn, Israel responds with retribution and oppression."
Last year, retired South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu -- another Nobel Peace Prize winner -- wrote a newspaper commentary attacking "Israel's theft of Palestinian land to build illegal Jewish-only settlements and the separation wall."We hope the new Obama-Kerry negotiations in Washington can overcome this maddening dilemma -- but don't hold your breath.