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Take Advantage of a Golden Opportunity - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Stretch out your hands and profit from the historic opportunity currently available to you. Stretch out your hands to President Obama. He is a man who is acting with awareness and responsibility with regard to our causes. Do not waste this opportunity. We rejoiced when he entered the White House. Indeed we were so overoptimistic that we imagined that he had a magical key to all our problems and that he would offer solutions that would be totally fair to us and return our territories. We thought that perhaps he would expel the Zionists, or at least cut them down to size. On that day I said: “Behold a white man has entered a black house.”

In our joy we forgot that we needed to play a role ourselves. We wasted many opportunities that this man presented to us when he steered his government towards certain reasonable steps that required us to be responsive, to overcome our obstinacy, reduce our media brouhaha behind which there was no action, and abandon our stubbornness that is still leading us to further ruin and loss. We forgot all this while thousands of our children were being killed, some by our enemy but some by our own hands through unjust decisions and instances of bravado that have not brought us one step forward.

Obama is a man with a heart. He seeks to serve the US interest before any other. He is governed by laws and is influenced by political forces that have vested interests and by churches and institutions. Despite all this, he succeeded in stretching his hand to us to tell us: The solution is here. We did not stretch our hands back to him but doubted his intentions. With strange stupidity and naiveté, we commented that his popularity at home had begun to drop. What happened was like a man who looked at a burning house, with everything red and dangerous inside it, but he viewed it from a green perspective and presented us with an opportunity. We failed to look at it carefully.

We wish to ask: Where are our thinkers? Where are the political analysts who would alert the nation’s leaders to the seriousness of letting this opportunity slip through our hands?

This is a man who operates in accordance with a clear political outlook and an efficient and constructive timetable. He has done so to the point that the extremists, chiefly Netanyahu, have grown angry with him and risked a confrontation with him, depending on their supporters among American Jewish forces and Republicans with agendas.

Why did we remain so inattentive? Why did we deal so harshly with this man? He is an intellectual, not just any politician. He has idealistic attitudes that he gained from his studies and his respect for human beings and human freedom. This is why he took a serious look at the Palestinian issue. There were signs that Israel had begun to lose its nerve as a result of Obama’s moves and the actions of some senior pillars of the US Government. This had an effect on Israel’s indifference. It began even to blame Netanyahu himself and started saying that he was acting wrongly and that his actions might cause fractures in Israel’s relationship with the international community. The Israelis warned Netanyahu that he was leading himself to a religious war that he could not handle. They exploited the media campaign to profit from the issue of coexistence with Iran. Turkey also became an important party to the issue.

Meanwhile we remained oblivious to all this, and went back to our three no’s instead of saying yes to a solution that would get us out of this calamity. We neither focused attention on exposing Israel’s colonialist and racist campaigns nor woke up from our slumber. Indeed we allowed them to go to extreme lengths and portray us as aggressors who wished to assault a peaceable nation’s rights and drive it from its homeland. Before the world they pretended that we had usurped their rights and that we wished to crush them. The world began to believe them because we were inattentive and negligent and wasted our time in empty talk. We slumbered, then grew emotional, denounced, and condemned. Meanwhile they were busy doing things.

Fortunately Israeli analysts began to sense the seriousness of that policy and the dangers of religious war. There was another thing that we failed to exploit well or use as a tool of media war. Indeed some of us were not even aware of it. It was when Albright said: “Netanyahu should feel worried versus the United States.” They called for restraining Israel’s insanity. We heard that accurate expression that Israel’s leader, or the head of the household as they put it, had gone mad. Did we try to make even some use of that? Did we, as Arab intellectuals and politicians, show the Israelis that their actions would have negative repercussions on Israel, and indeed on US interests? No, we never do anything like that.

Gentlemen, we should begin. We need to believe that it is necessary to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict because that will help us to stop the bloodshed, save our kinfolk from this calamitous situation and let the homeland return to us even if only gradually. We should act wisely, with awareness, logic, and responsibility.

It is our duty to understand that Obama is a green man in the red house, that he is a man who is moving forward with confidence and with care to defend US interests, but that he takes people’s dignity into account. He has come after a man who filled the world with lies and who was cursed by the earth and the heavens. We now see a man making serious legislative steps that exceed all expectations. His achievements exceed anything that his predecessors had done. He has mobilized the Democratic Party in a way that America has not seen before.

He is a man who acts with fairness, but instead of helping him, we rejoice at the retreat of his popularity, as I have said. Regrettably, we confine ourselves to speaking of his first year as if it was a failure. We say this on the basis of statistics that we did not interpret properly. On the contrary he achieved a major success and laid the foundation of a profound change. As we presented our causes, we should have understood that time was in our favor but that we were failing to profit from it.

Our brothers in Palestine and, indeed, all of us in the Arab world should reconsider the foolish ways in which we deal with this man. We are wasting an opportunity. We are not making him sense that we are serious. We have not acted with flexibility and vision. We have not supported him versus the Zionist forces. I wish we would read his book “The Audacity of Hope” to learn how this man thinks.

I wish we would recall the speech he delivered at Cairo University when, in total frankness, he said that he was searching for new beginnings for the United States and Muslims everywhere according to a plan that rests on mutual respect. We failed to draw up a plan to deal with this new policy. Such steps as we should have made appear important in light of America’s current policy and active moves vis-à-vis the Palestinian issue and the people who were driven from their homes and dispersed through no fault of their own. As long as the United States is seeking to revive the Palestinian peace process, why do we not act with awareness and responsibility to benefit from this opportunity and from announcements that are useful to us? When the US secretary of state openly stated “We are calling for a viable Palestinian state on the basis of the 1967 borders” did we act to make use of that historic opportunity?

In conclusion I state with total frankness that Obama is a man who deserves our cooperation to surmount the ordeals through which our kinfolk in Palestine live. Let us put our rhetoric aside. The man is acting sincerely and responsibly. He won his wagers on more than one front already. Even if some politicians turn away from him, a majority of the American people listens to him and follows his actions. This will make him stronger because the United States is advancing in a way that encourages optimism that from now on it will be governed primarily by US interests.

He is winning over his people and is trying to win us over, so why are we turning away? Until when will we act without thinking? As former French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine stated, Obama is attempting to change the global political climate that the Bush administration created, which rested on a strategy of confrontation between Western civilization and the rest of the world with special hostility towards the Arab, Islamic world. He is trying to change this into a new policy to which the Arab and Islamic worlds can relate.

It is wrong to think that this man is weak as some of his opponents are trying to portray him, something that we are naively imitating. He is a strong man who behaves logically and realistically. He has ideas for the future and we have begun to hear a different language from him.

Very unfortunately, Obama’s steps came at a time when a hard-line government ruled in Israel, led by a man who does not believe in finding a solution to the Palestinian issue and who, cunningly, pushes us into following a wrong course of action and preoccupies us with responding to his pronouncements. Although only a few have supported the fair European stance, the situation has now begun to change. It is becoming clearer to many people that what the Jews and Zionists are saying is false and contrary to the facts. However, in the end we are to blame for the feebleness of our media and their failure to make our voice heard, leaving the Zionist media free to distort our image.

Based on the foregoing, I feel that it is time that we moved in an active way along the road that will serve our collective interests as an Arab nation and help the world to understand us. It is time that we communicated with someone who stretches his hand to us to thank him and cooperate with him to attain the desired objective.

There is another important issue we should keep in mind. It is that the Islamic world has been very proactive with us with regard to the Palestinian issue but has not found sufficient response from us. Then there was the Jerusalem catastrophe, the assault on Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the manipulation of the city’s historical character and the attempt to alter its identity. The Islamic world rallied to defend it, but all this remained in the emotional sphere because we failed to exploit these feelings to handle the issue effectively and in a civilized way to make our voice reach the world’s ears so that it would sense the magnitude of the injustice done to this dear homeland and this precious Palestinian land.

It is time for us to act effectively and sincerely, stretch our hands to help each other, and stretch our hand to everyone who wishes to cooperate with us.

Dr. Mohammed Abdo Yamani

Dr. Mohammed Abdo Yamani

Dr. Mohammed Abdo Yamani is Saudi Arabia's former minister of information.

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