The question being asked today is; has Obama dashed the hopes of the Arabs regarding his seriousness towards seeking a solution to the Arab – Israeli conflict?
The barometer [being used to answer this question] is the extent of the US President’s ability to put a halt to the construction of Israeli settlements.
The problem with the issue of [Israeli] settlements is that it is deceptive, for it could also be said in Washington, particularly by the Israeli lobby, that the Arabs have dashed Obama’s hopes by not taking any steps to aid him in the process of building trust with Israel. The issue of settlements is no more and no less a controversial one, and therefore what we must learn is that Obama did not dash our hopes, as there is no hope or disappointment in politics, which is the art of the possible. The unfortunate truth that must be told to the Arabs today is that they simply took the proverbial bait.
When we link ourselves to the issue of putting a halt to the [construction of Israel] settlements, we have given Israel an excuse to evade the peace process from the beginning. Settlements are not an obstacle to peace as much as they became an obstacle to the start of the negotiations for peace, and of course Israel is the one that benefits from this. The construction of settlements will not be solved until after peace is reached, in the same manner that the Yamit settlement was removed after the Israeli – Egyptian peace. What must be recalled here is that Israel has two aims in taking a tough stance on the issue of settlements; firstly in order to raise the price for peace with regards to the operation of removing the settlements or paying compensation for them. The other reason is that it is in Israel’s interests to incite the Arabs to reject the peace process from the start, and thereby frustrate the US efforts [towards achieving peace]. These efforts come from a President who is different from all of his predecessors, in that President Obama is seeking to solve the Arab – Israeli conflict during his first term in office, not his second, when a President may have become overtaxed by a number of issues.
Therefore the Arabs today have a genuine opportunity to achieve peace and establish a Palestinian state; all they have to do is take this opportunity to deal with the main issues, from [Palestinian] refugees’ right of return to Jerusalem and other issues, rather than saying that Obama has dashed our hopes. It is also up to the Arabs to pursue efforts in order to get their house in order, so that inter-Palestinian division is no longer an obstacle to the peace negotiations, as well as [working towards] lifting the oppression from the people of Gaza.
The Arabs must work towards resolving their problems which threaten peace, including resolving their differences with Syria, which seems to have realized that the Iranian boat is sinking, as well as getting the Lebanese house in order. This includes Hezbollah, who will prominently feature in Lebanon, and who will act according to Iranian interests, rather than in the interests of Lebanon or the Arabs.
All of this is important in order not to throw away this genuine opportunity for peace granted by Obama, and we so must not become preoccupied over the issue of settlements, especially as our region is facing the maturation of the Iranian nuclear file. So long as Iran is taking advantage of our region’s issues and conflicts to serve its own goals, today it is the Arab’s opportunity to exploit Iran’s dilemma, and so all the Arabs must do is stop taking the bait.