Alright, back to the Middle East. An article published today in the Sunday Times hints that Obama is thinking about solving the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Apparently, Barrack Obama intends to pursue the Arab Peace Initiative, originally proposed by Saudi Arabia in 2002. To say that the plan is ambitious is an understatement. If implemented by all parties, Israel would retire to its pre 1967 borders (including Golan Heights), recognize a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital and in return they would get full recognition from Arab states. According to the Times, the Right of Return would be subject to Israeli veto; it is only cited in the plan. So the plan is basically a full normalization of the state of Israel and the creation of a Palestinian State.
The Peace Deal is definitely interesting, if only because it came from the Arab states and show that they are finally committed to solve the problem. One of the reason why they want to solve it is that they almost all have internal problems with fundamentalists; and they would all sleep better at night if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was solved, in the belief that it would slow down fundamentalist recruitment. But before we start being optimist, there are a lot of questions left unanswered:
- Who will win the Israeli elections of February 10th 2009? Livni, the leader of the ruling Kadima Party, has supported the plan. But on the other hand, Netanyahu of the Likud Party is totally opposed to the plan. Several polls show Likud with a small lead, but it is very close. If Likud wins, forget about the plan.
- Will the plan still be acceptable to Arab states and all leading Palestinian factions once it is clear that the Right of Return will be "vetoed" by Israel? This is a huge sticking point.
- Is the plan acceptable to both Fatah and Hamas? The article does not mention Hamas at all, but they must be aware that they are in charge of Gaza and no comprehensive peace deal will lead to anything if Hamas is not on board. According to wikipedia, Hamas has supported the plan after it was released; but that was a long time ago when the intra-Palestinian situation was different. What about now? Also, Fatah might not want to sign a Peace Deal which would leave them a country that they think would vote them out for Hamas. It seems Fatah has become almost parasitically dependent on Western propping
- Is Barrack Obama experienced enough to pass it? I can't say I'm impressed by what he said according to the Times; that Israel would be "crazy" if they refused such a plan which "give them peace with the Muslim world". Telling choice of words but not very diplomatic; and if he wants to do this thing he will need all the diplomacy he can get. I tend to agree that this is as good as a deal that Israel will get, but I could see plenty of scenarios where I would not regard it in Israel's self-interest to sign (for example if some Arab countries backed off or if Fatah or Hamas disengage from the negotiations).
- Will there be fundamentalists on either sides that will do whatever it takes to make it fail? If so will they succeed?
But I think we can see a pattern emerging from Obama; from Kashmir to health care to the Middle East, it can be summed up in 2 words: THINK BIG.