What Barack Obama can do to help the Middle East
By Ray Hanania
President-elect Barack Obama has a real opportunity to help Palestinians and Israelis achieve a real peace, and then begin a real war on terrorism that can succeed.
The conflict between Israel and Palestine has raged 60 years, directly and indirectly fueling 90 percent of the conflicts in the region. Resolving it peacefully could help redefine the Middle East and prevent future conflicts where American lives are lost in exchange for political posturing and post-Sept. 11 emotional exploitation.
But President Obama cannot do it trying to resurrect the old strategies and efforts. He must make it a priority, but, he must also step back and disengage from the complicated Gordian Knot of political gamesmanship that has painted everyone, Arabs and Israelis, into separate and irreconcilable corners.
What Obama must do is step back and look at the bigger challenge, and not step into one of those unavoidable painted corners. Not with the Palestinians. Not with the moderate Saudi Arab leadership. And, not with the Israelis.
Step back and re-address the conflict from the starting point that everyone knows is the answer to the conflict: immediately establish a second Palestinian state and define its borders. Accept the inevitable sharing of Jerusalem’s Old City. Recognize Israel in clearly defined and secure borders.
Recognize the suffering of everyone, including and most especially the Palestinian refugees from 1948 and 1967, and the claims made by Jews who fled persecution in the Arab World.
Starting from the end vision, rather than trying to navigate the political landmine of the past peace process war zones, is the only solution.
Take Israelis and Palestinians to the end vision immediately. And then use the power of the United States to enforce a peace and confront the violence that is inevitable regardless of whether there will be peace and most assuredly if there is not.
Violence is the real challenge, not trying to achieve peace. But achieving peace is the only way to defeat the violence. If Palestinians and Israelis could achieve peace, they can work together with the United States to confront and defeat the violence.
It’s not too late to stem the rising tide of growing religious fanaticism in the Arab and Islamic worlds. And, it is also not too late to stem the rising tide of extremism that is slowly taking over Israeli politics and that is being fed by a media and political bias.
Delaying peace does not help Israel. It only increases the chances that Israel will eventually be destroyed. Maybe not in 10 years. Maybe not in 50 years. But it will happen if the conflict is not resolved.
The likelihood that Israel will be destroyed in a future of continued conflict should not offer comfort to Palestinians and Arabs. In Israel’s destruction will also be the destruction of moderate Arab life. The destruction of Arab secularism. The destruction of Arab empowerment. The Arab World will be destroyed, too, and replaced by a new repression of hatred, fanaticism and a bastardization of religions.
Palestinians must separate legitimate Palestinian suffering from the exploitation of that suffering by Hamas, a terrorist organization. But they cannot confront Hamas until a just solution is achieved. As long as there is conflict, Hamas will survive as a movement, although not in the hate of some of its human leaders.
Palestinians have tough choices, but I believe the Palestinians will make the right choices for a genuine peace. The refugees will surrender their just and legal claims to homes and lands that were occupied and confiscated by Israel in war in exchange for acknowledgment of their rights, compensation and even a human compassion that so far has been missing from past peace talks.
Palestinians are ready to accept the reality of today’s world. They cannot go back to World War I when the Jewish population of Palestine was negligible. They cannot go back to 1948. And, they cannot go back to 2000.
Time is not on their side as a national movement, although their cause will live forever. But time is also not on Israel’s ides and Israelis must make a decision. Either they want peace or they want the land.
The price for peace is far less than the price of continued land annexation and conflict.
President-elect Obama can help both sides see through the fog of the conflicted Arab-Israeli history, the posturing, the politics and even the extremism.