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What if Obama's Middle East Strategy Failed?

Three Palestinian Intellectuals Voice Thier Opinions

By Khalid Amayreh , Journalist — Occupied Palestine

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

President Obama’s speech to the Muslim world in Cairo on June 4th and his declared commitment to achieve a "balanced" solution to the enduring Palestinian plight revived hopes for ending decades of cruel Israeli occupation of occupied Palestinian territories.

Moreover, Obama’s consistent demands that Israel freezes its constantly rabid settlement expansion in the West Bank and East al-Quds (Jerusalem) made many Arabs and Muslims, as well as people of good will around the globe, think that the United States may finally have decided to introduce some evenhandedness and fairness to its erstwhile brazenly pro-Israeli policy.

However, there are those who are not willing to give Obama the benefit of the doubt, not only because they keep hearing nearly daily statements from Washington asserting America’s "iron-clad" commitment to Israeli security, but also because Israel is effectively flying in the face of Obama and telling him "do what you may, we are not going to heed your calls."

Indeed, the systematic savaging by Israel of the Palestinians, especially in the Gaza Strip, as well as the unmitigated theft of Arab land in the West Bank, should be a clarion proof, if a proof was needed, that peace and Israel are an eternal oxymoron.

This perception is corroborated by a torrent of personal attacks on Obama by Zionist pundits who have called the American president all sorts of names, including "anti-Semite," "Jew-hater," and "Hamas lover."

But the question remains, is Obama capable of doing the job? Namely, that is getting Israel to terminate its decades-old occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and al-Quds and to repatriate Palestinian refugees who were brutally uprooted from their ancestral homeland when the Zionist state was created more than sixty years ago.

Will he succeed in achieving what every other American administration failed to achieve?

And what would be the repercussions and ramifications in case Obama’s entire strategy in the Middle East failed to materialize, mainly as a result of Israeli intransigence and arrogance of power, and also because of America’s perceived unwillingness to exert pressure on Israel to give up the spoils of the 1967 war?

These and other questions were put to three Palestinian intellectuals who have extensive knowledge of the American foreign policy in the Middle East.

"Carbon-copy of Bush"

Abdul Sattar Qassem is a professor of political science at al-Najah National University in Nablus in the Northern West Bank. He is also a prolific writer and political activist who has been imprisoned by Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) a number of times due to his outspoken criticisms of the “peace process” with Israel.

He told Islamonline that he had no doubt that the entire Obama strategy would fail.

“I don’t see any genuine difference between Obama and (former US President George) Bush. I wouldn’t exaggerate if I said that Obama’s policies are essentially a mere carbon-copy of Bush’s policy. I think his promises and proclamations will eventually turn to be a mere illusion."

Asked what he thought would be the ramifications of the failure of the "Obama vision," Qassem said the Palestinian and other official Arab regimes were “too powerless, too corrupt and too bankrupt to make any difference.”

"They (Arab regimes) will do nothing because they lack the will to act and are not capable of doing anything that would upset Israel. They will just wait for the next American administration, just as they have been doing for decades. This is the reason Israel and the West in general do not take the Arab world seriously."

Nonetheless, Qassem does argue that despair accompanying the failure of the Obama strategy will generate "a lot of indignation and exasperation" in the Arab world, especially in occupied Palestine and countries such as Egypt, Lebanon, and Jordan.

Qassem's views are generally shared by Haider Eid, an English Lecturer at al-Aqsa University in Gaza.

He argues that it is naďve to pin any hope for achieving a just and durable peace on Obama.

"I believe that Obama’s efforts will meet a clarion failure, not only because of the Israeli refusal to end the occupation, and the mounting Nazi-like trends in the Israeli Jewish society, but also because of the conspicuous absence of the political will on the part of official Arab regime."

However, unlike Qassem, Eid believes the failure of the Obama strategy in the Middle East will have "profound polarizing effects" on the Palestinians as well as through the region.

"There will be a sharp polarization between two camps: The camp of resistance, defiance, and steadfastness on the one hand, and the camp of subservience to American hegemony, on the other."

Dr. Haider Eid, al-Aqsa University in Gaza.

Eid ridiculed those Arabs and Muslims who have looked to Obama as a paragon of justice and true peace.

"We have to remember that Obama has not asked Israel to dismantle the colonies, or bring down the Wall, or allow the refugees to return home. So, what sort of peace are we talking about?"

Eid said he saw no tangible Arab strategy which would serve as an alternative in case Obama’s efforts reached a dead end.

"I think we need a genuine alternative in the form of demanding the creation of a unitary democratic state in the whole of mandatory Palestine from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River whereby Jews and Arabs, irrespective of religion and race, would live equally as citizens."

We have nothing to lose by cooperating with the Obama administration.Let’s Give Him a Chance

Abdullah Abdullah is a veteran Palestinian politician affiliated with the Fatah organization. He dismisses "the perpetual nay-sayers" as "political novices."

"I sharply disagree with those who think that the survival of the Palestinian cause depends on the success of the Obama’s efforts. We were once allied with the Soviet Union. The Soviet had disappeared but the Palestinian cause remained as relevant as ever," argues Abdullah, who is also prominent member of the Palestinian Legislative Council.

However, unlike Eid and Qassem, Abdullah acknowledges that Obama is sincere in his efforts to resolve the enduring conflict in Palestine "for altruistic reasons."

"Strategic planners in the United States have reached the conclusion that leaving the Arab-Israeli conflict unresolved would have harmful consequences on American national interests."

Abdullah says Obama is not just another Bush.

"This president is very different from Bush. He has carefully studied the problems facing the United States and reached the conclusion resolving the Palestinian problem is an important prerequisite for checking the ongoing deterioration in the global US standing."

Nonetheless, Abdullah recognizes that the possibility of failure cannot be ruled out.

"We have nothing to lose by cooperating with the Obama administration. If we start saying 'No,' we will be sending a golden propaganda present to Israel which will then claim that it is the Palestinians, not Israel, who don’t want peace."

Qassem argues that while people might differ on the expediency of certain tactics, intellectuals ought to pay more attention to strategic goals.

"I don’t think that we ought to keep exhausting our national efforts playing public relations games with Israel. Instead, we ought to find a real salvation strategy that would eventually lead to the liberation of Palestine, land and people. And, as I see things on the ground, I just cannot pretend that Obama’s efforts will allow us to achieve our goals.

"I am saying so because our tasks are more than just freezing the construction of a building here or there, our task is to effect Arab-Islamic renaissance. This is what would make Israel reconsider its insolence and arrogance of power."


Khalid Amayreh is a journalist living in Palestine. He obtained his MA in journalism from the University of Southern Illinois in 1983. Since the 1990s, Mr. Amayreh has been working and writing for several news outlets among which is, Al-Ahram Weekly, Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), and Middle East International. He can be reached through

Posted by uprooted Palestinian at 4:21:00 AM 

Labels: Jerusalem, Khalid Amayreh, Muslims, Obama

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