Monday, August 3, 2009

Mr Obama, you have something to learn from George.

Posted by Kero at Monday, August 03, 2009
Thank you to our "office" neighbor because hubby was able to read the Gulf News editorial today. I do not know much about the middle east politics and i am learning a lot from our dinner discussions. Hence, I want to share this editorial for people like me who knows little but has the very right to be concerned on Middle East issues.

Gulf News Editorial
Published: August 01, 2009

US must insist Israeli colony expansion ends

Dear Mr Obama

On the day of the presidential elections, we wrote supporting your campaign. We said your victory would offer the promise of a different America - one that would contribute to solutions to global conflicts instead of instigating them.

In the six months you have been in office, you have proved us right, particularly with regard to our troubled region of the Middle East.

Mr President,

The Arab world has been abuzz over the past few months with your seemingly sincere drive to achieve peace in the region. We are encouraged by the relentless efforts of your special envoy George Mitchell to bridge the gap between the Arab states and Israel in the hope of solving the six-decade-old conflict.

In his latest visit to the region, Mitchell acknowledged that the Israeli colony expansion projects are an obstacle to reviving the dormant peace negotiations. In his meeting on Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he failed to get the right-wing government to halt the building of new colonies, as you and your secretary of state have repeatedly requested.

Instead of having the courage to blame Israel for hindering the peace efforts, we learned that your administration is asking Arab states to start normalising ties with Israel to boost the peace process. Your administration is asking us to introduce "confidence-building measures". In other words, Arab countries are being asked to reward Netanyahu for shunning peace overtures and confiscating more occupied land to house Jewish colonists in the West Bank, including Occupied East Jerusalem, which we hope will become the capital of the future independent Palestinian state, which you said is the ultimate goal of the current peace drive.

Mr President,

Perhaps a lesson from recent history is appropriate here. Shortly after the landmark Madrid Peace Conference in 1991, which followed the first Gulf War to liberate Kuwait from Iraqi occupation, president George H.W. Bush realised that the principle drawn by that conference - land for peace - was being undermined by the Israeli government, led then by Yitzhak Shamir.

The Arabs have pledged to recognise Israel and enter collective negotiations to achieve peace in the Middle East, based on United Nations resolution 242, among others. This includes the Palestine Liberation Organisation.

But the process agreed in the conference soon appeared futile as the Shamir government rushed to pre-empt potential withdrawal from the occupied lands by speeding up the construction of colonies in the West Bank, the same policy adopted by Netanyahu today.

Although he knew the political risks in an election year, president Bush and his secretary of state James A. Baker III decided enough was enough. In January 1992, the administration voiced its frustration with Israel and declared it would cease its support for $10 billion in loan guarantees to Israel unless the Shamir government halted the colonies projects.

Political historians say the move cost Bush the election. He lost to Bill Clinton. But they also agree that he had known the consequences but decided to take the morally right decision.

Mr President,

Your attempts to broker peace in the Middle East are at a crossroads today. And the long-oppressed Palestinian people and the rest of the world hope you will take a similar stance to president Bush's.

Placing pressure on the Arabs to open up politically and economically to Israel while the latter continues to shun the peace process is like putting the cart before the horse. It will never work.

In 2002, the Arabs presented Israel with a historic peace offer. But the Israelis have refused even to discuss it. Instead, they launched three wars - two against the Palestinians in 2002 and 2009 and one against Lebanon in 2006. The Arab Peace Initiative is still on the table. But Arab leaders have made it very clear early this year the offer will not remain on the table for long. We need a peace partner. Currently we don't have one.

Mr President,

We realise that Israel is your country's closet ally, not only in the Middle East but probably in the world. But appeasing Israel doesn't do its people any good and will certainly alienate the Arabs. The previous administration did just that, leading to the frustration of Arab regimes and the radicalisation of our young. America became the enemy. This sentiment has however been waning since you moved into the White House.

But by being unwilling to take on the party that is obviously stalling the peace process and willing to plunge the region into another war, your administration might soon become an extension of the gruelling eight years of George W. Bush. We sure hope not.

Mr President,

There is a historic window of opportunity today for you to achieve what many American presidents failed to achieve - peace in the Middle East. Arab states pledged to help you. But you, sir, need to take the morally right step.

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