You wouldn’t think that a Nobel Peace Prize winner would be wondering where he messed up, would you?
But Barack Obama, President of the United States, Commander in Chief of the most powerful army in the world, and 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner – is certainly going through some difficult times.
He has, so far, been unable to find a solution to the two big challenges his presidency has faced so far – health care and the Afghan war – and all of America is shaken by the attacks at Fort Bragg and the shootings in Orlando. The Kerry-Lugar bill, meanwhile, has been shot down like a US drone, and to top it off – Hillary Clinton just killed his status in the Middle East.
Obama’s unprecedented act of reaching out to Muslims and (Arabs in particular) was a decisive factor in his Nobel Peace Prize win – but his administration seems to have taken two quick u-turns and the Middle East has been left disoriented. Indeed, the prevailing feeling is one of betrayal, as Craig Nelson points out in the UAE:
It’s official: forget Cairo. Fold up the speech and throw it in the bin, or put it in that already bulging folder marked “Bad Faith & Broken Promises”…
…Mr Obama was said to be different, and his Cairo speech gave Arabs and Muslims throughout the world a reason to think so. After all, it was in the Egyptian capital that the US leader declared in June to thunderous applause: “The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. And America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.”
On Saturday, the US made a show of appearing to do precisely that.
At the news conference in Jerusalem where Washington unqualifiedly dropped the settlement precondition requirement, Mrs Clinton and the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu donned the shoes of Mr Bush and Mr Sharon.
It was not so much the ensuing dissembling that was discouraging – after all, we have grown accustomed to the evasions and lying that are rife on all sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – but the brazenness of it that disheartened any listener who held out hope that this US administration would turn over a new leaf with Palestinians in particular, and the Arab world in general….
…For one thing, one would be hard pressed to imagine what more could be done to undermine the tattered credibility among Palestinians of the so-called “moderate” president, Mahmoud Abbas.
For another, champions of “moderation” both in the region and elsewhere will have even less to show the next time young Arabs, let alone young Palestinians, demand illustrations of its benefits…
Mahmoud Abbas has resigned, the peace process seems to have come to yet another standstill, and it’s that same old story as far as Palestinians are concerned:
America comes, says nice things, promises to help Palestinians, then sides with the Israelis anyway.
The actions of Mrs. Clinton in the past week have particularly far-reaching consequences because they undermine moderate efforts to reach peace – the foremost proponent of which has been Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority and leader of Fatah. Already looked down upon by many in Palestine for his supposedly soft approach and advocacy of flexible dialogue, Abu Mazen has been effectively pushed off the cliff – a view that both the Israeli and Palestinian press hold. As the BBC also reports, there are few who can replace him if he does leave.
What that signals is a possibility of power returning to Hamas in the January elections, something neither Israel and America will ever accept. A power vacuum in Fatah might be the ideal route for Ismael Haniyeh, Khaled Meshaal, and co to finally claim leadership in the Palestinian Authority. As a consequence the White House should have anticipated (and that Israel realizes), it makes Clinton’s words even more confusing, summarized brilliantly by Nabil Shaath (quoted via James Gundun):
This lack of foresight, of a Plan B, is summarized in one line by Nabil Shaath.
“It really is like telling the Palestinians to go back to violence.”
James Gundun has also blogged authoritatively about how, as Clinton backtracked after her diplomatic blunder, both Israelis and Palestinians feel betrayed. The White House has dropped the ball on this one, and they need to have a single, consistent message for any hope of renewed negotiations, much less progress on achieving peace in the Middle East.