Last chance for the two-state solution as Obama prepares to visit Israel?

Thumb_john-ray

There's one item glaringly obvious by its absence from the White House announcement of President Obama's upcoming trip to Israel.

Barack Obama with Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington in 2011
Barack Obama with Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington in 2011 Credit: Reuters

The purpose of the visit, scheduled for 20th March, is to "re-affirm the deep and enduring bonds between the United States and Israel," runs the official statement, and to discuss issues of mutual concern "including Iran and Syria".

So what about Palestine?

"The Americans haven't spoken to us, and they haven't informed us of the visit", the Palestinians Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat is quoted in today's Israeli newspapers.

So has Palestine been forgotten? Hardly.

It seems inconceivable that Airforce One would even take off without some sort of agreement already packed in the President's luggage.

In his first term, Obama finally gave up on a peace process moribund for two years. He got tired of pushing on locked gates. But suddenly, much has changed.

Last month's Israeli general election has delivered some awkward coalition maths to hawkish Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu. He's having to build a government that encompasses not just his traditional right wing and religious supporters, but also a new centrist party that recognizes the cost to Israel's international reputation of looking like the obstacle when it comes to peace with Palestine.

None of this adds up to great cause for optimism. There have been too many false starts and broken promises for that. But it does look like the two-state solution is to be given another chance. May be a last chance. That itself might concentrate minds.