Are we about to see a new side to U.S. President Barack Obama after his historical success in having the new healthcare reform bill passed, which all U.S. former presidents before him failed to achieve?
This time Obama invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to visit him [in Washington] and it was said that on the way to the White House, Netanyahu and his aides poked fun at the idea of getting a lecture from Obama on halting settlement construction and that they would tell him that he can forget it. But the Israeli guest was in for a big surprise when Obama threatened that if he did not see any progress in the negotiations, he would announce a peace plan with his name on it.
Does this exist? Nobody has ever heard of that before. It seems that Obama has been hiding a plan up his sleeve to set boundaries for the negotiations; a plan that would not leave the door open for Netanyahu who wants to start from the beginning and negotiate issues that have already been settled just to procrastinate and waste time.
Even though Obama designated a special envoy to tour the region, sent his Secretary of State to the region several times, and gave a number of statements and speeches urging both the Arabs and the Israelis to negotiate, it did not create the impression that the U.S. president was serious about achieving peace in the Middle East and that his promise of establishing a Palestinian state would be fulfilled.
Netanyahu and extremist Jewish groups are not Obama’s only opponents, as he has opponents on both sides. There is Hamas and its supporters. Around two weeks ago, Hamas began carrying out activities on the ground to cause disorder. The most recent activity was the operation carried out on Friday. Hamas does not want negotiations that could isolate the representatives of the Iranian camp. It is expected that the situation will deteriorate when Obama announces his plan, as it will be met with confrontation from Israeli and Arab extremists. That makes us wonder whether Obama studied modern history at all and whether he realizes that it is time for him to fasten his seat belt as his plan will face political and military battles that aim to foil it or blow it off course.
Now that Obama is on board with regards to the negotiations he is required, with all his effort, to limit the negotiation timeframe in order to limit bloodshed and potential chaos and to foil plots that aim to delay [negotiations]. Time is the key to reaching the desired historical solution, and the U.S. mediator will not be able to push things forward unless President Obama personally takes over managing the process.
We want to see the other side to President Obama, the decisive man who cannot be intimidated or stopped just like we saw with respect to the healthcare reform project, which, despite many expectations that he would back down or fail to secure votes, he was successful at imposing through Congress and he achieved a historical victory because he, personally, took over the reins. This is a similar situation. He will not be able to achieve peace unless he personally sits at the table and uses his power to impose his plan on both sides and to protect the negotiations from the expected sabotage operations.
*Published in the London-based ASHARQ ALAWSAT on March 27, 2010.