2007 Must Usher In Mideast Peace Talks
If we have learned nothing else from the Middle East over the past six decades, we should at least understand that military solutions are not the answer to long simmering problems in that region of the world. The only route to a real lessening of tensions is a step-by-step political process where all sides have the opportunity to engage others with ideas and proposals. The first step in any such process is to actually start talking. To accomplish that there needs to a powerful and evenhanded broker that will bring all sides to the table.
That broker had been, until the year 2000, the United States. With our power and prestige, an overall balanced approach to resolving the need for a Palestinian homeland, and powerful incentives to move talks in a progressive direction, the US had been the force that helped to produce results. The last major effort by the US towards peace between Israel and Palestinians however, took place in the last year of President Bill Clinton’s time in the Oval Office. When President Bush took power the peace efforts were placed on the back burner as if a cooling off period would somehow benefit the tinderbox of the world.
The result of not talking between the various sides in the Middle East, or our failure to dialogue with our enemies in the region, has produced complete instability. The conflict that raged this year in southern Lebanon, or the complete breakdown of Iraqi society due to our invasion, is more than enough proof that festering problems not resolved through the political process will spiral out of control when a military ‘solution’ is added to the mix. At the point when weapons are used the anger and resentment only is increased and each side becomes more polarized and separated from the other side.
What I have just written is all Diplomacy 101, yet there seems to be many in the Bush Administration that have not yet come to understand the need for real talks between Israel and the Palestinians, or between the United States and nations such as Iran and Syria.
The main players in the Middle East have such a long and tortured past that they themselves cannot start talks with their sworn enemies. The United States must seriously and quickly pick up the few shreds of credibility we have left after what President Bush has done to the region, and leverage it for peaceful resolutions of the regional problems. Both Israel and the Palestinians need us to bring them to the table. Israel gets nervous when forced to talk but we must not allow the tail to wag the dog any more as the stakes are too high for our interests.
For instance there is now the small opening between the Israeli’s and the Palestinians that should be seized on as an opening for talks. There has been an agenda left undone, commitments made and not honored that can be discussed between each side.
The release this week of over $100 million dollars of Palestinian funds by Israel, and other overtures recently should be viewed in a larger context and marshaled towards talks between the sides. At the same time the talks could be used to stop aggression from both sides, the latest being the building of another illegal settlement on the West Bank by Israel.
This coming year the crises in the Middle East demands the Bush Administration put aside their pettiness and arrogance and start serious diplomatic talks. 2007 needs to be the year for a serious diplomatic effort in the Middle East. Come on, Condi, earn your pay.