Monday, May 16, 2011

An-Nahar Newspaper: Washington and the Middle East: Is this the Week of Truth or another missed opportunity?

[Administrator's Note: Octavia is now writing articles for An-Nahar Newspaper each week and we will provide them here after they are printed.]

President Barack Obama is expected to deliver a speech on the Middle East Thursday at the State department. He’s scheduled to meet with Jordan’s King Abdallah II Tuesday and Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu Friday. Obama is also expected to address AIPAC the largest U.S. Jewish lobby on Sunday. It is safe then to say that the Middle East peace process is on the U.S.’s President mind?

George Mitchell just resigned his Middle East Special Envoy post well before his two-year mandate was over citing “personal reasons.” Could those personal reasons be his failure to bring the Palestinians and Israelis to an agreement on moving forward towards peace? Or is it more his realization that no patience, no diplomacy and no deep understanding of the region are enough to change the status quo and convince all sides that it is only through mutual compromise, realistic demands and managed expectations that they will ever achieve - not peace - but a step towards a peaceful solution that could be acceptable to most.

Netanyahu is expected to speak before U.S. Congress by the end of the week. It’ll be a waste of energy to expect him to offer anything new. If anyone is holding his/her breath as to what he will say we can guarantee only one thing: He is unhappy with the latest unification between Hamas and Fatah. The Israeli Prime Minister couldn’t be more disappointed by the Palestinian factions rapprochement because it overrides the claim he has relied on repeatedly in the past. Namely, that the Palestinians are divided, that President Mahmoud Abbas doesn’t speak for all Palestinians and that any agreement Israel strikes with Abbas is likely to be rejected by Hamas. Now that Abbas stands on firm ground representing the Palestinians and keen to ask the UN in September to recognize a Palestinian state, Mr. Netanyahu finds himself with his back to a corner and no real options to choose from. If he says Israel won’t negotiate with a Palestinian government that includes Hamas he is sure to send the Palestinians on their unilateral quest for an independent state and the UN is likely to indulge them. Accepting Palestinian unity and moving towards talks to recognize a Palestinian independent state based on the 1967 borders is an impossibility now that might end up being his only viable option soon. Israelis who want an end to the impasse - and their numbers are large enough to make a difference - might push him aside and replace him by someone who will move in this direction.

The Obama factor with George Mitchell out of the picture doesn’t sound very promising. Unless the U.S. has a new plan that mirrors the new realities on the ground, the situation seems headed towards complications. Not what the Middle East region needs right now but perhaps the perfect storm needed to set the peace agenda on a new political track. The question that Obama, Netanyahu, Abdallah and all concerned parties should ask themselves today is: Who will Israel be negotiating with and on what ground? Hosni Mubarak is gone and Syria’s Assad is busy restoring an uncontrollable order while the King of Jordan does not look too concerned with giving his people the reform they are demanding as the whispers of the need for a constitutional monarchy are getting louder and might soon turn into demands.

The U.S. has shown us so far that it is out of step with the tempo of the region. It continues to ally itself with the losing cards instead of offering fresh ideas for a decades-old conflict. In this sense, fresh means new and in sync with the times. It doesn’t mean holding meetings with, listening to and advising the same players who proved time and again their incapability to resolve the conflict. When President Barack Obama speaks about the Middle East this week, he should introduce new players, new ideas and new initiatives that match the times and the new political landscape sweeping the Middle East. He should address all Middle Eastern nations and hold each one of them accountable to the failure so far of reaching a fair resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He should not forget that no one is immune of the Freedom Fever, including Israel and Jordan, which could be facing their own revolutions even if they appear relatively safe at this stage.



Keep the conversation going...

Anonymous on my toes said...

bravo bravo, dear Octavia not only you did explain the unrest but also painted a resolution. Looking for fresh ideas and new players, when the game is in a stand still or down grading, makes sense. all it needs now to make a full meal is the name of the components in the recipe. do you know what ingredients can be used to prepare this meal for the hungry people who reside in these corners of the world so thirsty and lavished to get a peaceful meal?

May 16, 2011 at 12:17 PM  

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