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Obama's Middle East Plan

Mark Urban | 14:41 UK time, Monday, 18 May 2009

WASHINGTON - The road to Middle East peace always travels through the White House - even when, as in 1993, it was Norwegian negotiators who made it all possible!

President Barack Obama's attempt to create a new peace process effectively begins today with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit.

In the coming days the president will greet the Egyptian and Palestinian leaders and on 4 June make a speech in Cairo aimed at winning over the Arab world.

Nobody is quite sure about the timings but at some stage before, during, or after the Cairo visit, Mr Obama is expected to call for a Middle East peace conference.

Strong-arm tactics

It will mark a significant shift in diplomatic emphasis - putting the search for solutions onto the wider level, involving countries like Jordan, Syria and Egypt, instead of just leaving it to the Israelis and Palestinians as the last administration often did.

This "comprehensive" approach to regional peace is not a new idea, but you have to look back to the Madrid peace conference of 1991 to find the last time it was really given a try.

Back then George Bush Snr's administration strong-armed a right wing Israeli government to the table by withholding US loans. The Madrid conference, by the way, was not a great success, but it did set the scene for the 1993 Oslo agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Quite a few observers feel that history may repeat itself, not just in diplomats taking the search for peace to a regional level but also in producing a bust up between the US and Israel.

Mr Netanyahu came to power earlier this year on a wave of right wing, nationalistic, support following his country's fight with Hamas in Gaza. Many in his party and wider coalition have set their faces against any concessions to the Palestinians.

Urgent duty

Mr Obama on the other hand is a man proud of the fact he spent part of his childhood living in a Muslim-majority country (Indonesia), and who believes he has an urgent political duty to reach out to the peoples of the Middle East.

King Abdullah of Jordan has warned recently that time is short for the new president to convince the Arab public that he is ready to overturn former President George W Bush's pro-Israeli policies.

So will we see fireworks today at the White House? A newly empowered president telling a wily Israeli political maneouvrer that the rules of the game have been changed?

It probably won't happen today, but many think it is coming.

It is in Mr Obama's interest to signal soon and publicly the new realities of the US/Israeli relationship. How else will he convince the Arab world?

Equally it may be in Mr Netanyahu's interest to show his coalition partners that he is being pressured into attending a Middle East peace conference, where Israel can expect the condemnation of serried ranks of its neighbours.

Flak from the right

The Israelis have already been deploying delaying tactics prior to this meeting. They insist its main purpose is to discuss what the two countries should do about the Iranian nuclear issue.

They have also implied that Mr Netanyahu cannot go the whole way in conceding full Palestinian statehood.

Mr Obama will underline his commitment to finding a solution to the Iranian nuclear issue that would prevent the use of force.

But as to Mr Netanyahu's reluctance to embrace the two state solution, we can expect the US president to pressure him into a rapid change of position.

The acceptance of previous Israeli governments of this principle will make it hard for the prime minister to hold out for too long, and it appears that Mr Netanyahu, mindful of the flak it may earn him from the right, is trying to do no more than buy himself time.


  • Comment number 1.

    Obama's holding all the cards isn't he? Obama received huge support in November from Jewish Americans. Netanyahu is disliked by Jewish Americans. Netanyahu's only card is obstinacy. But didn't he come second in the Israeli elections? Obama can put on the table: American loans; American aid; the illegal settlers; right-of-Palestinian-return; an armed sovereign Palestinian state; military supply; trade sanctions, nuclear weapons; the NPT treaty; war crimes; etc etc etc Oh, I forgot peace.

    For his part, Obama will deal with Iranian nuclear weapons in parallel. Not very difficult: they don't have a nuclear weapons programme. That's a done deal. It just requires a speech at the appropriate time.

  • Comment number 2.

    Like George Bush Snr, Mr Obama must not underestimate the power of the Jewish lobby in the USA.

    If he does, he will experience as much flak "at home" as Mr Netanyahu will in Israel, if Obama pushes too hard for a two-state solution.

  • Comment number 3.


    Tony didn't fix much Middle East did he! Now another charismatic 'healer' is wandering the Holy Land'. I can feel the aura from here.

    'Miracles we perform daily - the impossible takes a little longer' runs the old saw. Now we can add: 'And the Middle East will take forever' - it being the oldest (open) sore of all. Any one who has looked at the future of Israel/Palestine, can see it doesn't work. Is Barack driven by the same 'I can do anything' deludedness of Tony? Has BO studied human psychology and history - or just Law? If he thinks he can 'grin and boom it' he is in for a disappointment - and only Jehovah knows what the world is in for.

  • Comment number 4.

    Thank you Mr. Obama for finally showing some fairness in diplomacy over the Israeli/Palestinian problem. The problem is greed. Israel needs to cease its 'apartheid' type approach and return to agreed 1967 borders. Problem solved. We will still support them. The Muslim world would finally respect them. Its not that difficult to figure out.

  • Comment number 5.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 6.

    ...his country's fight with Hamas in Gaza. Many in his party and wider coalition have set their faces against any concessions to the Palestinians....

    the words fight and concessions are partisan. is it a concession to end occupation? are human rights for ALL a concession? If people in tanks and apaches shoot at densely populated areas in a city whose people, because of israeli policy, cannot escape is that a 'fight'?

    yes the strategy has ALWAYS been to buy time while creating facts on the ground.

    They have openly said for many years they do not accept a two state solution. or what they mean by two state is israel and the palestinians moving to jordan [because they have lots of land!]

    the real battle in israel is between those israelis who want israel to have laws based on human rights for all and those who want to extend the discrimination?

    Gordon, Tony And Cameron are patrons of the JNF whose polices would be illegal in the uk. How do they square that with human rights for all?

  • Comment number 7.

    My analysis of the meeting and its wider geo-straetegic implications are that both countries will emphasise the threat of a nuclear armed Iran to its interests in the region. Mr netunyahu would like a timetable before other options are considered in dealing with Iran.
    Mr Obama sees the importance of dealing with the Israeli/palestinian conflict to bringing about peace and security in the region. This would isolate Iran as moderate states such as Jordon, Egupt and saudia arabia and the other arab states who do not recognise isreal to increase their ties with isreal, therefore reducing the likelihood of iranian attack.
    NETUNYAHU does not recognise the two state solution, he continues to expand settlements in the occupied west bank, continues with the illegal wall and continues with checkpoints in palestinian terroriries.

    The political system in isreal makes it very difficult for one party to gain an overall majority, therefore coalitions need to be formed, sometimes with very right-wing parties, who are uncompromising in theor demands.

  • Comment number 8.

    Richard_SM, very well put, I could not agree with you more. Yes, President Obama has all of the cards in his hand and there is no other better time to place all issues on the table in order to formulate a comprehensive peace plan for the entire Middle East region. Until now this was not possible because here in the US, we have not had such economical devastation since the Great Depression which is before the establishment of Israel. We have had recessions but, nothing like this. Our housing worth has lost around twenty trillion dollars in just value and that number by itself is mind bugling. The US government has injected over thirteen trillion (same amount as the entire GDP of 2008 for US and about the same as the entire European Union GDPs combined) into the financial/business sector within the last year and we have not yet hit the bottom therefore, the moral of the story is that the US must increase economical stimulus/income thus, reducing runaway unemployment. This means new markets that pertain funds for merchandise and trade and what better area than the Middle East, especially Iran. After thirty years of revolution, sanctions, and wars, the Iranian economy is in shambles and in desperate need of American knowhow and technology therefore, by addressing all of the issues, we will be able to formulate a new path of prosperity for both The American Empire and the region. It is the power of the US to include American Jews that stands behind Israel in order to protect and defend her and without that power, Israel knows and understands that with all of the financial difficulties that we are experiencing here in the US, Americans could back away from such one sided policies and capital flow to the Jewish State and that is why such a hardliner as Netanyahu has changed his tone and tactics. I have to say that it is a welcoming change from an individual that reminds me of Cheney, no difference.

  • Comment number 9.

    Mark Urban writes that "..Mr Netanyahu ... is trying to do no more than buy himself time."

    that is exactly what a succession of Israeli leaders have done: "buy time".

    meanwhile, on the ground, generation after generation of Palestinians are deprived of, well, virtually everything, their land, their human rights, their livelihoods.

    to believe that President Obama can bring about change is just wishful thinking. unfortunate for the Palestinian people, all of us really, that reactionary politics is the norm in this world.

  • Comment number 10.

    Would anyone really care if Israel was obliterated? Obviously the Jews would but apart from the U.S. does anyone in the Western states wake up thinking "something must be done" about Middle East peace? We clearly don't really care that much about peace as we have totally failed to do anything about genocide across the planet (unless it happens in an oil producing country). We gift extremists plenty of propaganda to recruit new disciples by speaking with "forked tongue", finger wagging about torture in so-called 3rd World countries whilst allowing rendition flights across the world as an example. Palestinians were living quite happily for nearly 2000 yes two thousand years where the current state of Israel is, which was created by the Western powers after WW2 in May 14, 1948, how would we like it if Italians turned up in the UK and annexed a large part of it stating "We were here in 55 B.C. so we are taking it back"?

  • Comment number 11.

    the settler terrorisim that dominates that society is illustrated by any israelli political leaders who contemplate peace get assassinated? even sharon ended up with bodyguards to protect him from the settler terrorists?

    so the sad fact is only when israeli politicians become targets for attacks will we know they really mean it?

  • Comment number 12.


    (The Super Jew Episode)

    Well, the act and scene (Super Jew), staring (PM) Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, of Israel, the guest star, has played out as expected, all the marks were hit, and things when pretty much according to the script. The (AIE) American Israel Empire will Preemptively Nuclear Attack the Shi-ite Persian Republic of Iran, in an effort to gain the last piece of the Grand Game II Puzzle, the Islamic Crescent, The Caspian Sea Basin, the two pipelines, Nabucco, and the Central Asian, allowing the establishment of a Hierarchical Structure a New World Order Structure with the (AIE), American Israeli Empire with Israel at the apex, in the new fall season first episode, of the finale season.

    (What Next)

    So, what is the next act in the Divine Comedy? If you are a realist, a mono-deities, or multi-deists, believe in Q, read the stars, coffee grounds, I-Ching, the New Testament (John of Patmos), a Jew using the computer assigning number values to letter in the Torah to see into the future, or just are a realist and see how things have gone in the past and how things are going down the same road now, it is all pretty much cut and dried. Everything has a beginning, middle and ending. And, over the history of mankind the same acts have been played out over and over and over again, with about as many variations as can be expected, and the plots and characters are thread worn. We are playing out Moving On Up, with a Jewish Landlord, and yet another version of Empire. But, this time it appears that this is the season finale and the option to pick up the series for yet another season have been cancelled.

    (The Finale Episodes)

    Did it all have to turn out this way? This is the (21st /XXI) Century, and maybe that is all the series was meant to be, much like Battle Star Galactica, or maybe it was a matter of choice, and by those many wrong choices the fate of mankind has been sealed, what mankind could have, should have, and failed to do has in fact as Rev. Wright so correctly said caused the chickens to come home to rooste. So, it appears the last episodes are coming starting in the fall. Will there be a surprise ending, a happy ending or just an ending to mankind as many other species in the past, standby for the final episode.

  • Comment number 13.


    ah ,Hercule, merci bien ;)

    FWIW, my money is on "just an ending to mankind".

  • Comment number 14.



    A Diplomat is a man that tells you what he does not believe himself, and the man that he is telling it to does not believe it any more than he does. So Diplomacy is always equal, It is like good bookkeeping. He does not believe you and you do not believe him, so its always balances (Source: Will Rodgers June 9, 1928).

    Diplomat is more about dialogue and not about setting policy, A State Executive, is about the setting of State Policy and seeing that it is followed through, and a loose lipped State Executive can sink the ship of State.

    The United States has to follow through on what it says, Mr. Obama said.

    He added: I have not said anything yet because its still early in the process. They have formed a government, what, a month ago?

    The Media Messiah President had better begin to under stand that there is a wide difference from flapping his lips and jacking his jaw, in the (AIE) American Israeli Empire (West), where everyone takes it for granted that the minute a politician lips start moving everyone knows there lying, to being the head of STATE, which is a whole different ball game. The difference is how you go about lying.

    (BiBi Running the Agenda)

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, is calling the shots, and running the (AIE) East and West agenda, and that agenda is the preemptive Nuclear Attack upon Shi-ite Persian Iran, by years end. They have formed a government, what, a month ago, does not cut it, and the Knesset has already, voted for a law that could spell prison for anyone, including Jewish Israelis, who denies that Israel is a Jewish and Democratic State.

    BiBi has been around the block before, this is not his first dance, and BiBi, is a proven Warrior, not a community activist, looking to have the whole world sing in three part harmony, build community consensus, and who leaves the neighborhood before sunset. Iran first and then the rest of Islam will fall in line. BiBi feels it will only end in political fallout and nothing more.

    The problem is the bets with American lives on the line. The Collective Rapid Response Forces (CRRF), made up of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia. Made up of units of higher-than-brigade scale, including armored units, artillery and navy units in the Caspian Sea region, may see the attack as a serious threat to their territorial integrity and sovereignty, and move in defense of their interests.

    And, in Korea, does the (PRK) Peoples Republic of Korea use it as cover to reunite the peninsula, (1M) One-Million troops against (28K) Twenty-Eight Thousand (AIE) troops backed by (1M) One-Million (PRC) Peoples Republic of China, Chi-Com. Troops?

    Then you have Pakistan with nuclear weapons an Islamic Country, and then, the Northern Iraqi State of Kurdistan, and the Nabbuco Pipe line, the former Soviet Republic of Georgia both of which are economic and military threats to the Russian Federation, and Turkey.

    (Bottom Line)

    The Imperial Media Messiah President, better start staying in the White House in the Oval Office, and shut up the less said the better. This is not about running around flapping his lips and jacking his jaws to hear him self speak, and see himself on (TV) or the Internet. BiBi is running this and that is that, that is how it is and BiBi does not talk just to hear him self. The Imperial Media Messiah President better, be thinking more about what the (AIE) West plan is after the bombs start dropping.


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