Come again, Mr President?

DAN-CHYI CHUA
May 20, 2011
*Special to asia!

Good heavens, did President Obama just make the most radical foreign policy proposition yet in his Middle East speech last night?

Occupied, I didn't have time to watch the speech 'live", so I ended up googling for it and reading the full transcript. (Available here.)

I got to what is the 64th paragraph, and saw this:

"The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their full potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state."

A sovereign and contiguous state?

I thought perhaps it was an unfortunate typo, so I got to a computer and watched the speech. And there it was at 42:48.

 

 

 

 

Yup, he said it. "A sovereign and contiguous state."

Then I thought, alright, let's look up the definition of "contiguous". Maybe I understood it wrong all this while.

From the Oxford Dictionary: sharing a common border; touching

From the American Heritage Dictionary:

  1. Sharing an edge or boundary; touching.
  2. Neighboring; adjacent.
    1. Connecting without a break: the 48 contiguous states.
    2. Connected in time; uninterrupted: served two contiguous terms in office

The American Heritage Dictionary's example was particularly helpful.

The 48 contiguous states. Not 50, which is the total number of US states. Why? Because Hawaii and Alaska are not connected without a break to the other 48 states.

So when Obama talks about a contiguous state for the Palestinians, I really would like to know what he means.

Let's take a look at the map.

 

865 Map of Gaza and West Bank

 

Considering where the West Bank and Gaza lie, a contiguous state for the Palestinians can mean only one of three things:

1. Ceding Israeli territory which currently lies between the two parts to the Palestinians. This will of course mean the end of a contiguous state for Israel.

2. A Palestinian state that consists of only the West Bank.

3. A Palestinian state that consists of only Gaza.

The first would be rather inconceivable to the Israelis.

The second and the third, on the other hand, are rather offensive, not least to the Palestinian people and the national unity government which has just been formed between Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza.

Presumably, Obama's intention was to imply that the West Bank should not be made up of parcels of land cut off from one another by Israeli Jewish settlements scattered among them.

But surely, his speechwriters could have written something less shoddy for a presidential speech on the Middle East.

Unless Obama really has a new vision for the Palestinian state.

Suddenly, the senior Israeli official's comment after the speech that "There is a feeling that Washington does not understand the reality, doesn't understand what we face" starts to make some sense.

dan-chyi chua

Dan-Chyi Chua was a broadcast journalist, before forsaking Goggle Box Glitz for the Open Road. A three-year foray led her through the Middle East, China, SE Asia, Latin America and Cuba, and she's now grounded herself as a writer for theasiamag.com, content with spending her days in Jerusalem.

Contact Dan-Chyi