Abdullah Iskandar
Dar Al-Hayat (Opinion)
January 15, 2009 - 1:00am

US President-elect Barack Obama will take office next week. Fiery dossiers in the US, namely the economic and financial crisis, pile up on his desk, in addition to the foreign policy issues his administration has inherited from President George Bush, who has himself admitted failure in solving any of them. After all, Obama's administration may find itself obliged to grapple with all these files as priorities, including the volatile situation in the Middle East, as a result of the Israeli offensive on Gaza and the carnages perpetrated by the Israeli Army against the civilians in particular, let alone the destruction of the infrastructure there.

During his election campaign and following his victory, Obama has announced - so did his team and high-ranking US officials expected to play key roles in the coming administration - that the military solutions to the problems encountering the US have proved inefficient, hence the need to pursue diplomatic solutions instead. This also applies to the Middle East which Obama said will fall within the priorities of his administration. Thus, diplomacy will be the primary tool in handling our problems, including Iran and Syria - not to mention the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Palestinian track.

By the time Bush hands over power to Obama, many events and developments would have taken place. Israel, which enjoys power on the ground and is in control of the military initiative in the Strip, will not hesitate to seek field and political gains, creating an irreversible situation, once a cease-fire is imposed and talks with the new American administration kick off.

On the Arab front, the situation still turns in a vicious circle, particularly after the failure to take advantage of the UN Resolution 1860 and deal with the Egyptian initiative for a cease-fire, in order to stop the destruction of what has remained in the Strip of people and buildings. In the run-up to the Arab Economic Summit in Kuwait, we will witness an inter-Arab debate on how to address the situation in Gaza and whether to hold an extraordinary session or simply convene a ministerial council.

In both cases, no unanimous resolution looms in the horizon, one that would attribute the situation in Gaza to the Israeli aggression and the obstruction of peace - instead of manipulating this situation, in light of the tragedies and calamities plaguing the Palestinians, in order to "pit" the Arab peoples against their authorities, on charges of "colluding with the aggression", and prompt Hamas to reject the political initiatives and wager on a "massive revolution" that would secure its power and expand it to the West Bank and the neighboring Arab countries. It might be extremely dangerous to misread the events that took place over the past days, such as the firing of rockets from Lebanon, and the firing from Syria and Jordan on Israel - after Egypt's displeasure.

These sporadic incidents, the motives behind which can be understood, will not carry on as long as the authorities in the concerned neighboring countries are fully committed to the truce agreements signed with Israel and shy away from reconsidering these commitments because of an individual event. In other words, the angry revolutions will remain within the framework of incitements that overlook the real premises of the crisis and the approaches thereto: between escalating the discourse and benefiting from the diplomatic cards.

In such a case, the Arab situation might not be ready to embrace the American diplomacy over the Palestinian cause. This will negatively affect the cause and the Palestinians, amidst Washington's adherence to the two-state solution and its positive stance vis-à-vis the Arab initiative, and also in light of Israel's attempts to obliterate the principles of the two-state solution and wipe out any peace efforts, through creating new field and political realities. Obviously, Hamas, which did not recognize the Arab initiative nor the peace process, will not be concerned with the expected diplomatic process, while its regional allies are betting on a dialogue with the new American administration and on embracing its diplomacy.


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