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This is Also an Opportunity for the Moderate! - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Whether the aim of the protesting flotilla was to sink the negotiations, cause embarrassment to the moderate Arab camp or to provide the Gazans with bread and cement, without knowing it, the flotilla has made available a valuable opportunity. Not even the organizers of the Freedom Flotilla imagined that Israel would give them such a large amount of attention and publicity through its unjustified and illegal attacks in international waters and its deliberate crime of murder on a peaceful ship in front of the eyes of the world.

Because of this, there is now a favorable atmosphere for political activity in the opposite direction. Perhaps the flotilla didn’t break the blockade but [broke] the political inertia in the region as a whole regarding the Palestinian-Arab-Israeli issue. This did not occur to the flotilla organizers and it doesn’t mean much to the Netanyahu government that wants escalation and not reconciliation.

This is another summer crisis and like all major crises it might result in more action, whether positive or negative, according to the theory of Henry Kissinger who believes that crises create opportunities and that the day America lost Vietnam, China won. In our region there are numerous crises, however the opportunities are few and far between. Despite the old grumbling, the summer war of 2006 in south Lebanon gave birth to an agreement granting peace to this country which was suffering from never-ending clashes with Israel or [clashes] because of Israel and it has been a lot calmer ever since. Of course, another war might break out but Hezbollah is not Al Qaeda; Hezbollah is a heavyweight, its military operations take place approximately once every five years.

How can we benefit from the flotilla crisis away from wailing and crying?

If Turkey and Syria wanted to open the door to expand the circle of peace then the opportunity is available. Washington, which is lagging behind and does not want to involve Syria, might find that it is compelled to bring in Damascus this time within a framework of expanding Arab-Israeli peace under a so-called solution to the flotilla problem. In this framework it might be very strange to see the Kuwaiti parliament proposing withdrawal from the Arab Initiative, the initiative of King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz for peace, which has nothing to do with the flotilla issue; on the contrary, Israel itself has not accepted this [the initiative] and the US has not acknowledged it. This [Arab Initiative] is causing embarrassment to Israel, and it also sets boundaries for any peace agreement, ensuring that no Palestinian leader can abandon it if the Arabs are serious and really do want peace. Of course, this summer is their opportunity and for those who do not want to negotiate, they have the right to go and fight but they cannot then ask the international community to intervene and punish Israel if it breaks their ribs. We cannot say no to initiatives and no to negotiations and at the same time that we do not want to fight and instead ask those who are besieged from among the Palestinian and Lebanese to fight in our name. These calls for war are an embarrassment. They make the Arabs weaker, not stronger, and subject them to international ridicule.

So that we are not preoccupied with a summer of shouting and screaming (that we are hearing today) about a new opportunity, the Arab forces that have political value and are directly related to the Arab-Israeli conflict ought to use this opportunity to push the negotiations in light of the weakness of the head of the Israeli government, Benjamin Netanyahu, and the increasing international belief in the need for a peaceful comprehensive solution. The window will be open for a few weeks and after that the committee and investigation and condemnation will all come to an end, just as the drama of the Goldstein investigation ended and Gaza remained under siege, and the Syrians found themselves outside of the diplomatic activity.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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