Sunday, December 28, 2008

Obama’s Middle East challenge

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict did not come about over night and will not be quickly resolved. Like the conflict over Kashmir between India and Pakistan, the Israeli-Palestinian situation has resulted in ongoing warfare and violence for decades. And given the dynamics of the politics on all sides of the conflict – the Hamas-Fatah Palestinian split and the weak Israeli leadership about to face elections – the steps towards resolution likely cannot even begin without the strong hand of a third party – i.e., the United States.

The Bush administration has put leadership on this issue on the backburner until that past few months. The little effort put forth recently has obviously been an abject failure.

The Barack Obama will face a Middle East challenge on day one of his new administration. He should avoid the mistakes of the Bush administration not the least of which was to ignore this situation until the end of his term in office. The Obama team should move quickly to try and restart the peace process and move beyond simple ceasefires and towards permanent resolution.

This is Steve Clemons’ take on the situation at the Washington Note:
Part of what is going on today with Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak's unleashing of massive Israeli airpower against Hamas offices in Gaza is a test of Obama's America. Hamas's decision to end its "lull", or temporary ceasefire with Israel, also has a lot to do with testing the U.S. and seeing what the outlines of Obama's policy will be.

Barack Obama cannot afford to allow his presidency and its foreign policy course to be hijacked by either side in this increasingly blurry dispute. Israel's actions today just created thousands of aggrieved and vengeful relatives committed to delivering some blowback against Israel.

Hamas, at the same time, overplayed its hand at a fragile time. Hamas will never play the role of supplicant or subordinate to Israel's interests -- but its resumption of violence before the Israeli elections and during a time of transition in US politics triggered a devastating responce from Israel that signficantly undermined its own interests as a potentially responsible steward of a Palestinian state.

The violence we are watching is just yet another installment in the blur of tit-for-tat violence from both sides of this chronic foreign affairs ulcer.

The US -- and the incoming Obama administration -- must move an agenda forward in Israel-Palestine negotiations that works at levels higher than the perpetrators of this violence. It's time to get this conflict out of the weeds, and time to stop allowing any actors in this drama to hijack the foreign policy machinery of governments trying to push forward a Palestinian state.

America has to get out of the role of "managing" this conflict -- and must solve it. Israel and the Palestinians have shown themselves unable to maturely end their conflict -- and short of a results-oriented strategy that puts the "Middle East Peace Business" out of business, America will be constantly tugged into this conflict and blamed for it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

While I appreciate the message that your post is sending the President designate, since you have mentioned the Indo Pakistan conflict alos in the post, may I suggest something?

The US has been taken for a ride by the Pakistanis for the past two decades. They have not been a trustworthy ally ever and hopefully, now that all the chickens have come home to roost, the USA's new administration will recognize the Pakistanis for what they are. The country's economy is in shambles thanks to its leadership using up all the aid given by the USA for Swiss accounts and the arms given to them to plan for a possible war that they hope to win over India. They have set up the Taliban, the Taliban, the Pakistani armed forces and their infamous ISI are all hand in glove and the loser so far has been the USA in Afghanistan. The latest developments, if anything should drive this point home to the Americans who are yet to recognize who their friends are and who have been treating them like a gullible soft touch.