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Clinton's Unpromising Start
By Ramzy Baroud
ccun.org, May 7, 2009
Incongruous. One can hardly think of
a more suited term to describe the new US administration's approach to
peacemaking in the Middle East. Though there is little evidence that
previous US administrations had genuinely attempted to play a balanced
role in forging a just peace between Israel and the Palestinians, many
hoped -- and a few still hope -- that Barack Obama's administration
would bring about new standards.
However, if recent comments
made by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suffice as a general
indication of the administration's Middle East policy, then little
change is on the horizon.
Clinton told US legislators 23 April
that the key to peace between Israel and the Palestinians was Tehran;
that without getting tough on Iran, Israel could not be expected to
pursue peace with the Palestinians. "The two go hand in hand," she
emphasised. What a baffling approach to peacemaking. In order for peace
to prevail, Israel should engage Mahmoud Abbas's Palestinian Authority
in "discussions" aimed at inspiring the isolation of Iran, for reasons
entirely pertinent to US interests and Israeli "security".
While Clinton's approach rests on luring Israel into her proposed peace
discussions, what is Clinton's promise to the Palestinians, the Arabs,
and indeed Iran but endless chatter, a regional cold war and sectarian
divisions? Hasn't the Middle East seen enough of that? Is it not time to
relegate such detrimental language and focus on positive engagement,
regional stability and economic cooperation?
In fact, there is
concrete evidence that supports the claim that a responsible US policy
in the region could indeed usher in a new beginning, which would
ultimately prove beneficial to the US in a time of economic meltdown and
repeated crises. For example, Iran has made clear its intentions of
espousing dialogue with the US, Hamas is openly seeking "engagement",
and Hizbullah -- which seems committed to Lebanon's stability -- is
positively responding to EU diplomatic overtures.
seems that the new US administration with all the gutsy talk of
boldness, daring and audacity is still unwilling or unable to confront
Israel's chaotic and destructive behaviour in Palestine and in the
Middle East at large.
Clinton should have used entirely
different language and adopted a wholly different approach if she and
her administration were keenly interested in investing in a just peace,
and not mere "discussions". Instead of trying to entice Israel to engage
the Palestinians long enough to deceive the Arabs and alienate Iran, she
should have dealt -- and strongly so -- with the provocative politics
disseminated by Israel's new right-wing government.
leaders, confident of their country's revered status among Western
governments, which immunes it from any consequential criticism, are
lashing out left and right.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor
Lieberman, recognised in many circles as "fascist", is leading Israel's
diplomatic offensive, a strategy used and perfected by previous Israeli
governments. The aim of the offensive is to condition any Israeli
"concessions" on specific demands, whose implementation often elicits
anything but peace and stability.
Lieberman told The Jerusalem
Post on 23 April that it would be "impossible to resolve any problem in
our region without resolving the Iranian problem". One can only guess
what "resolving the Iranian problem" means and requires. However, it's
important to recall that it was Lieberman who launched his newest career
by rejecting the Annapolis peace conference outcomes, reverting to the
roadmap solely because the latter requires nothing of Israel until
Palestinians completely crack down on "terror". Under Israel's
definition of terrorist groups, which also includes the elected
Palestinian government, Lieberman's true objective is to absolve Israel
from any expectations pertaining to peace, dialogue or even simple
Lieberman is not only agitated by the largely
discretionary requirements placed on Israel, but by the language itself.
"Over the last two weeks I've had many conversations with my colleagues
around the world. And everybody, you know, speaks with you like you're
in a campaign: occupation, settlements, settlers," said Lieberman, who
described those using such language as "speaking in slogans".
Lieberman is, of course, not the eccentric loner of the Israeli
government, but in many ways represents the emerging status quo in
Israel, with all of its alarming tendencies. Haaretz reported that
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is angry over an EU attempt at
linking closer ties with Israel with the latter's commitment to a
two-state solution. "Peace is in Israel's interest no less than it is in
Europe's interest, and there's no need to make the upgrade in relations
with Israel conditional on progress on the peace process. We are in the
process of reviewing our policy; don't rush us," Netanyahu reportedly
told visiting Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek.
was helpful enough to elaborate on what he meant by "peace is in
Israel's interest," when he said: "If Israelis can't build homes in the
West Bank then Palestinians shouldn't be allowed to either," in
reference to the expansion of illegal Jewish settlements and destruction
of Arab homes.
Lieberman, on the other hand, has dashed any
hopes that Israel might find the Arab peace initiative a common ground
for peacemaking, according to Haaretz, reporting on 24 April. He
rejected it, in part, because it stipulates a just solution to the
Palestinian refugee problem in accordance with international law.
Moreover, he called on the international community to stop pushing for a
Not only does Israel want to preserve its
matrix of control over the West Bank, annex Arab lands, and maintain its
illegal settlements in violation of international law, but it also wants
to control the language, silence mere calls for Palestinian statehood,
and lead a world of fury, including that of the Arabs, against Iran. So
much for peacemaking.
Under such a reality, it behoves Clinton
and the Obama administration to abandon the tired slogans and the old,
belligerent policies of their predecessor. If they are indeed interested
in a just peace, for its own sake, then luring Israel to engage Abbas
only to trick the Arabs and isolate Iran cannot be a promising start.
- Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net)
is an author and editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His work has been
published in many newspapers, journals and anthologies around the world.
His latest book is, "The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a
People's Struggle" (Pluto Press, London), and his forthcoming book is,
“My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza The Untold Story” (Pluto Press,
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