Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Happy to be Mistaken | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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I was one of the few Arabs who thought that John McCain -the presidential candidate contesting the last US presidential election against Barack Obama – was better for our central Arab cause – Palestine – than Obama. But it appears that US President Barack Obama “is disappointing me day in day out.”

Many agree that the speech which US President Obama delivered in Cairo was an historic one by any standard. The anti-America camp, represented by Bin Laden, Khamenei, and Ayman al-Zawahiri, realized this and hastened to attack the President before he had delivered his speech. The speech was followed by denunciation and mockery by the Lebanese Hezbollah in a statement it issued. Hezbollah’s inflexibility did not benefit it much in the elections and the Lebanese voted for the majority and not the opposition.

The most important thing in the speech when it touched on the Arab-Israeli conflict is that an American president equated for the first time between the victim and perpetrator. The US President talked about his country’s commitment to back Israel and protect its security but talked at the same time about the Palestinian people’s suffering and reminded that “it is an unacceptable” suffering. He reiterated his country’s commitment to the two-state solution and the need for Israel to stop building settlements. This demand about the settlements is one of the taboos that politicians in the United States avoid and no one preceded him in this stand except George Bush and he was not reelected in 1982.

Someone might say: Is equating the victim and perpetrator a positive step? The answer is of course no. But within the context of the historic stands of successive US administrations it is a distinct advance. All previous US administrations took the side of the perpetrator – Israel -unconditionally, considered it the victim, and always blamed and criminalized the victim – the Palestinians – and held them responsible for all the reasons for the continuing conflict in the region.

Israel’s image in the world these days is not at its best. The “ideal” image of this small, democratic, and peaceful state surrounded by barbaric Arabs trying to attack it and throw its people in the sea is finished. Long decades of Zionist propaganda were destroyed by the Israeli crimes, globalization, and the efforts of the world’s peace forces. Israel is besieged and asked to stop the settlements as a step for dismantling them as otherwise where would the Palestinian state be established? There are European calls to boycott Israeli goods and this is boldness and a precedence that have never crossed the minds of Israel’s leaders.

It is our luck, if we act well, that Israel is led by an extremist right. It is not a smart right that is skilled in the art of public relations. Netanyahu and his foreign minister are not a beautiful image of Israel for dealing with the international community.

But what next?

The new US approach and the negative public image of Israel might be an historic opportunity for achieving some gains. But the real problem lies in a unified Arab stand and more importantly a unified Palestinian one. If Israel finds itself forced to take the “bitterness” of peace, it will resort to the Palestinian situation’s argument: Who is my partner in the peace with the Palestinians? Fatah or HAMAS?

It is both shameful and disgraceful that a bloody Palestinian-Palestinian struggle is taking place in the West Bank and Gaza. The Palestinian infighting is going on while the territories remain occupied and the lands in the West Bank are being confiscated daily and settlements built on them. Israel is wagering on the Palestinian situation so as to continue to dither about implementing its international obligations and continuing to annex Palestinian lands so as to create a new reality and also wagering on changes in conditions and probably in Obama’s policy toward it for one reason or another.

We the Arabs are masters of missing the historic opportunities and the stage is providing us with an opportunity that might not be repeated. Let us remember the stages of the Arab-Israeli conflict and think twice the Egyptian way: “Where we were and where are we?”

I follow Obama’s policy, speeches, and stands and he is proving to me day in day out that I was wrong in assessing him about our primary cause. I hope that Obama will continue with his new course and translate it on the ground of reality and I will be very happy to have been wrong.