President Barack Obama’s emerging strategy for the broader Middle East and South Asia involves implementing a phased redeployment of troops from Iraq, increasing resources to the challenges in Afghanistan and Pakistan, engaging Iran directly on its nuclear program (though this may be on hold for the time being with the unrest there), and making a concerted effort to achieve a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Many American presidents have worked to end the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the two-state solution—creating a new Palestinian state alongside Israel—has been part of the discussion for years. President Obama has committed himself to achieving a two-state solution from his earliest days in office. Obama said in his speech in Cairo earlier this month that a two-state solution to the conflict was in “Israel’s interest, Palestine’s interest, America’s interest, and the world’s interest.” He has directly linked the creation of a Palestinian state to U.S. national security interests, and he has put the credibility of his adminstration on the line for a two-state solution.
Some of the key unresolved issues linked to a two-state solution lie in and around the Jerusalem area, where I spent much of last week. Take a look at these maps to get a sense of the complicated geography and landscape in this part of the area. They show how roads, walls, and settlement housing by Israel in the Jerusalem and the central part of the West Bank in Ramallah (north of Jerusalem) and Bethlehem (south of Jerusalem) are presenting practical challenges to a working two-state solution.
Along with this map, this slideshow from my trip should help illustrate the challenges for a viable two-state solution in and around Jerusalem.
- Slideshow: Middle East Conflict and Israel’s Neighborhood: Israel’s Close Borders and Open Spaces by Brian Katulis