Oleh: Novriantoni Kahar
Obama’s readiness and ability to use the momentum will deliver double outcomes: the positive image of the US will restore and the seeds of radicalism and terrorism will lose its justification. Quoting Irshad Manji, Obama have to prove that the US is rather a non-fulfilled expectation than the main villain in the Middle Eastern turmoil.
Israeli’s withdrawal from Gaza prior the inauguration of the new president of the US indicated that they did not want this event to take place along with heating situation in the Middle East, and thus the first presidential speech will consist of denunciation against them. This strategy succeeded since Obama did not even mention anything about Gaza tragedy. Indeed, Obama said to have a new approach to the Muslim world, and we can only wonder how the implementation would be.
Surely, he will be more focused on US internal issues in his early administration despite of the fact that foreign policy will also be one of the US concerns. Therefore, many observers recommend to not being optimistic on Obama for solving the inherited problems from his forerunner (Iraq war, Guantanamo bay prison, financial crisis), and the old Palestine-Israel conflict. What can Gaza expect from Obama?
Mandate for Obama
Gaza tragedy urges Obama for not turning his face from the main issue: final solution for Arab-Israeli conflict. A public opinion poll conducted by the Centre for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan tells that 84,5% of the Jordanians believe that the US’ image will improve along with the end of Palestine-Israeli conflict, the unity of Iraq, and comprehensive evaluation to the policy of war against terrorism.
The poll, which is conducted in November 2008, identifies the main issues in the Middle East namely Palestine-Israel conflict, Iraq war and the impact of war against terrorism. Fifty seven per cent of respondents think the U.S. president-elect will help his country portray a more positive image in the Arab world (http://www.alquds.com, 15 Jan 2009). Although this poll did not comprehensively represent the opinion of Middle Eastern people, the number indicates hope and mandate for Obama to solve the six decades of conflict in the Middle East.
A survey conducted by Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) in Ramallah and the Harry S. Truman Institute at the Hebrew University of 1270 Palestinian and 600 Israeli respondents implicitly advised Obama to not administrate the way Bush did. Bush has neglected the Palestine-Israeli peace process and even seeded radicalism and terrorism (http://www.alquds.com, 16/12/2008).
In this survey, majority of the Palestinian (57%) and half of the Israelis (49%) want the US to play a more active role in moderating the conflict. Half of the Israelis and half of the Palestinians think that a more active American involvement will be effective and successful, whereas the other half splits between the skeptics and the extremes, expecting it to have no impact or to fail in any condition.
Interestingly, nearly two-thirds of the Palestinian respondents think that the US intervention will benefit Israel, while thirty five per cent of the Israelis think that it will benefit Palestine. Many of them (39%) believe that it will benefit both parties. This large percentage helps Obama to regenerate the peace efforts expected by both parties. Although the percentage was obtained before Gaza invasion, the poll is regularly conducted and the result is quite stable in the last three years.
Both Palestinians and Israelis are hungry for final solution to the conflict. And yet, throughout Bush’s administration, this became more complicated and there was no momentum to develop the peace efforts.
Carry on Clinton and Arab Peace Initiatives
Post Gaza tragedy, Obama is expected to dive in the peace efforts soon. Obama’s readiness and ability to use the momentum will deliver double outcomes: the positive image of the US will restore and the seeds of radicalism and terrorism will lose its justification. Quoting Irshad Manji, Obama have to prove that the US is rather a non-fulfilled expectation than the main villain in the Middle Eastern turmoil.
Obama will only have to carry on the previous two initiatives of peace. First, US former President Bill Clinton’s initiative in 2000 that is strengthened by Geneva’s initiative (2003). Both initiatives concern: (1) final borders and territorial exchange between Israel and Palestine, (2) Palestinian refugees, (3) the status of Jerusalem, (4) a demilitarized Palestinian state, (5) security arrangement, and (6) end of conflict.
Second, the Arab Peace Initiative that is a quite radical solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. It offered: (1) Arab recognition of Israel; (2) full normalization of relations with Israel; (3) Israel’s withdrawal from the occupied territories (West Bank, Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights); (4) the independent Palestinian state. Meanwhile, the matter of Palestinian refugees will be solved according to UN General Assembly Resolution 194.
US’ plan to leave Iraq for Afghanistan might be appropriate since there were their enemies: Osama bin Laden and Alqaidah. However, the key issue is how to revive Arab-Israeli peace initiatives after being eight years dormant and was neglected by Bush administration. The question is this: can dying mothers and children of Gaza laid their hope on Obama? This is the call for Obama.