On the eve of Barack Obama's first term, Israel launched its attack on Gaza and Obama remained silent. Now, on the eve of his second term, with failed promises of transformational change behind him, there is a risk that the Obama administration will utilize Egypt only to broker a temporary ceasefire. Such a move may reduce conflict but would exasperate the variables that would ultimately lead to regional war. Instead, all parties should be discussing long-term settlement.
Senator John McCain has already suggested that a high profile figure like Bill Clinton be sent to the region to referee negotiations but the Clintons represent a continuation of the pro-Israeli status quo and the PLA he once negotiated with at Camp David has been largely sidelined by the rise of Hamas highlighted by Shaikh Hamd bin Khalifah al-Tani's visit to Gaza to see Ismail Haniyah, prime minister of Gaza, but not including Mahmud Abbas who has been marginalized due to a betrayal of the Palestinian cause. Only a truly transformation in U.S. policy persuasion can help to craft the kind of balanced and aggressive stance needed to facilitate a movement toward real negotiated peace. It would be much better to recognize the importance and necessity of assuming this stance now rather than waiting to rebuild a new Middle east from the ashes of World War III.
The Obama administration failed to get serious about a long-term resolution during its first term. As a result, the region underwent tectonic shifts that have radically altered the perspectives of all negotiating parties. This most recent episode has presented the result of these altered realities for the first time in real terms. While it is improbable the Obama administration will take such a bold and truly progressive stance, it is important to contemplate the possible consequences of an inability to broker Mideast peace. In a recent Washington Post editorial Dr. Henry Kissinger explained that religious division, the persistent threat of conflict and sustained misdevelopment in the Middle East pose not only a threat to countries in the region but to the Post-Westphalian nation state system itself. As Dr. Kissinger described it, the Sykes-Picot nation state system in the Middle East was drawn on lines completely foreign to indigenous identity. He rightfully foretold of a potential breakdown that now emboldens the voices of violence when he explained that, "the more sweeping the destruction of the existing order, the more difficult the establishment of domestic authority is likely to prove and the more likely to resort to force or the imposition of a universal ideology." "The more fragmented a society grows, the greater the temptation to foster unity by appeals to a vision of a merged nationalism and Islamism targeting western values." Sustaining the typical rejectionist and unconditional pro-Israeli U.S. position could foment such an evolution which certainly opposes the stated objective of preserving the interests of both Israel and the U.S.
Now is the time for true alteration. All parties involved have no choice but to accept such propositions. An altered policy perspective based on the advocacy of a two-state solution along prre-1967 borders would lead to the reassertion of an Arabist counter to pro-Israeli stance of most influential U.S. policymakers. This paves the way, not only for something that could look like a new King-Crane Commission but for comprehensive development that could include something like a Marshall Plan for the New Middle East. As the tension heightened over the weekend, President Obama was in Myanmar trying to complete his "Asian Pivot" away from the Mideast, but he would be better to redirect Air Force One to Cairo and in order to present a second inaugural speech in the Muslim world. However, this effort should stand in contradistinction to his merely rhetorical performance there on June 4, 2009. Instead, he should repeat his remark that it is easy, "to point fingers... but if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: the only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security," but this time he should follow the rhetoric up with concrete action. Such proclamations and implementation would almost document the President's common claim that America is "the one indispensable nation." The other alternatives, whether they spark war tomorrow or some time down the road, could prove that all nations are indispensable, especially a Palestinian one the U.S. continues to refuse exists.
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