Will the Mideast peace process breathe again?
I have always believed and never ceased teaching that the best outcome of having an educated mind is the ability to guess intelligently.
Yet, although I believe that my mind is reasonably educated, I cannot guess any specific outcome from President Obama’s visit to Israel. We all hold hopes, albeit different, but I can easily guess that everyone is reaching a “peace process fatigue”. In fact, the very term “peace process” has grown to become meaningless, if not indeed a cruel joke.
In a previous column, I listed several options to “solving” the Israeli – Palestinian saga. One such option is the one I am inclined to believe will be the serious one to be discussed between President Obama and both Prime Minister?Ben Netanyahu (with his new cabinet moderately moved to a more moderate posture, and somewhat away from the severity of the influence of the religiously ultra-orthodox), and Chairman Abbas (with his continuous struggle to reign in the Hamas existence in Gaza).
If one can hypothetically extract Hamas from the puzzle, one will find that the two-state solution is, once again, the only viable one. It is not to be taken for granted that Hamas in Gaza and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood are one and the same despite the similarity in their religious dogma against Jews, not only in Israel, but any and everywhere. This is a problem for Egyptians to solve, and I am still hopeful that they will.
It certainly is an encouraging sign that PM Netanyahu, after presiding over four years of deadlock and suffering international isolation over the issue, has broadcast his eagerness to restart negotiations with the Palestinians with his new coalition government. In fact his choice of Tzipi Livni who always had good working relations with the Palestinians, and who is a former foreign minister, and is the leader of a dovish party (albeit small), to serve as his chief negotiator, is a significant development well worth celebrating by both sides.
Yet, appointing someone who is most hawkish as a housing minister (with powerful influence on the present and future status of settlements in the West Bank) is not exactly encouraging.
This may or may not be easy to understand because we are not familiar with the dynamics of forming coalitions to avoid new elections.
I wish I could guess what the Hamas leadership in Gaza will say and do, but I cannot. I do hope, with everything that Khalid Meshal, their leader, will have had a change of heart and mind.
For his faction to continue resting their entire existence on vowing to leave Israel with no existence is the remaining reason for most people to, literally, lose all hope that President Obama would return with a brokered deal in his pocket.
For Netanyahu and Israel, what they now face as the most urgent threats to their existence are not the Palestinians. It is actually not all that different from what other Arab countries face. Consider the civil wars plaguing many of them, consider the ever growing violent “skirmishes” between Sunnis and Shiites, consider the eminent threat of post Arab Spring Islamists broadening their power and tightening their grip of control, and consider the role Iran continues to ambitiously play.
In fact, I would hazard to guess that the Iranian file will probably consume most of the visit.
Since the beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name (a Chinese proverb), it is both wise and honest to say that the very Arab nations also need to make some changes.
Those who have perpetually asserted that only when the Israeli-Palestinian conflict ends, will the Middle East and the Arab-West relationship become normal, if not even sweet.
It is also wise and honest to say that our dependence on their oil has always made it necessary to go along and to actually make big sacrifices to assure that a settlement is reached. Things are a bit different now, and it is not we who need Arab oil the most.
It is China and it is India. This development is more assuring that we can play the role of an honest broker since we no longer fear repeating the history of the oil embargo of 1973.
Concomitantly, many if not most Arab countries actually stand to gain (a lot, in fact) by ceasing hostility, even the verbal chest-pounding anti-Israel and indeed anti-Semitic at times (yes, there is a difference).
Editor’s note: Mohey Mowafy is a recently-retired professor of health, physical education and recreation at Northern Michigan University.