Monday, August 3, 2009

Obama Middle East policy

Barry Rubin is certainly right that too many people are trying to "explain" US Middle East policy. If it was working, there would be no need to explain. How does one explain pressing Israel for concessions while Arabs remain intransigent and the Fatah prepares for a conference that promises to bolster every anti-peace position in the Palestinian polity, in order to out Hamas the Hamas?  

How does the USA explain that despite its "unbreakable bond" with Israel, it never bothered itself to recognize that even West Jerusalem is a part of Israel?

Obama Middle East Policy: Clueless is an Understatement

By Barry Rubin

The best thing to read about Western Middle East policy is Richard Dowden writing about some of the anti-AIDS campaigns in Africa, in his book Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles. The difference is that in Africa there are also some good anti-AIDS campaigns. He explains:

"It is these vital cultural perceptions that outsiders miss when they rush to save Africa from the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The bring with them quick, slick jingles and images thought up in…New York, London or Paris and try to impose them on…rural and shanty-town Africa. Often they do not even know they are imposing anything. They have no idea that they are in a different cultural world. When the results don't work, they become frustrated and angry and start muttering about stupid Africans."

Well, there are some differences. The problems with the Middle East are not just cultural but also ideological, historical, and political, too. And when the results don't work, they start muttering about stupid Israelis.

And the amazing thing is that they never learn. Here is President Obama's Middle East envoy, as quoted in the New York Times:

"George J. Mitchell likes to remind people that he labored for 700 days before reaching the Good Friday accord that brought peace to Northern Ireland. So the fact that Mr. Mitchell has shuttled back and forth to the Middle East for the last 190 days without any breakthroughs, he said, does not mean that President Obama's push for peace there is stalled."

True, the length of time alone does not prove failure, though it can be an indication. For the record, U.S. policymakers have been working on Israeli-Palestinian peace since 1974 which is roughly 12,775 days. Moreover, there is the not unimportant detail that in Northern Ireland, both sides wanted peace while in the Middle East only Israel (along with the Egyptian and Jordanian governments) does...
Mitchell explains:

"One of the public misimpressions is that it's all been about settlements. It is completely inaccurate to portray this as, 'We're only asking the Israelis to do things.' We are asking everybody to do things." Continued - Obama Middle East Policy: Clueless is an Understatement

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