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Peace requires more US action.

Summary: When Hillary Clinton addressed the media on September 3 following the resumption of Palestinian-Israeli peace talks, she got much right. But in suggesting that the US will not invoke an agreement, Clinton misinterpreted the reality under which the talks are being held.While America does not wish to be seen forcing the hand of either camp, the perception is unavoidable

Editorial

When Hillary Clinton addressed the media on September 3 following the resumption of Palestinian-Israeli peace talks, she got much right. But in suggesting that the US will not invoke an agreement, Clinton misinterpreted the reality under which the talks are being held.

While America does not wish to be seen forcing the hand of either camp, the perception is unavoidable. It does not approach the talks from a neutral standpoint, allied ideologically and militarily as it is to Israel, and Mahmoud Abbas' corner knows already what it stands to gain -- and lose -- from any breakthrough.

Awkward questions over illegal settlements and Jerusalem's capital status continue to be deftly dodged by White House officials. Robert Gates' initial call for a freeze in Israeli illegal construction in the Occupied West Bank has been expertly batted to the side. These demonstrate an overt US drive to relieve some pressure on its ally.

America needs to differentiate between impartiality and inactivity, for Israeli-Palestinian benefit, as well as its own. As Clinton pointed out, this may be the final chance for peace "for a very long time." It may also be the last opportunity for the US to achieve some long-held regional policy goals.

None but the most hopeless optimist is under the illusion that a perfect compromise can be reached. It is also inconceivable that peace, if achieved, will not bear an American hallmark. The US should know by now that a deal is not meant as ideal justice but a practical political solution to a problem also concerning American national security.

Solve this intractable conundrum, and the US's regional interests suddenly become far less daunting: peace accords between Israel and other Arab states potentially follow, progress is made on the repatriation of refugees and Afghanistan and Pakistan do not implode in an orgy of anti-Americanism.

Failure offers dire consequences for the Middle East. It also raises the specter of irrevocably relegating the US in the hearts and minds of people already familiar with a vertiginous decline of American credibility in the past decade.

Using its position as mediator, the Obama Administration's principal aim should be to extract compromise wherever possible, without fear of being labeled as biased. It is up to it to force progress, not for the purpose of meeting deadlines, but in order to prevent further Middle East chaos. If it can nourish its own agenda of neutralizing widespread hostility to Washington in the process, it will placate a related source of conflict.

Clinton spoke the US weighing in "on the side of leaders." With that ambition comes the responsibility of action.

Jamil K. Mroue , Editor-in-Chief of THE DAILY STAR , can be reached at jamil.mroue@dailystar.com.lb

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Publication:The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
Date:Sep 6, 2010
Words:526
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