What has the new Nobel laureate done so far in our region? Mitchell Shmitchell, a bitter and lost struggle over settlement expansion, a bizarre struggle against the Goldstone report, a disgraceful silence about the Gaza siege, and the ultimate proof that there’s nothing new under the Middle Eastern sun. It’s not Obama who “can,” it’s Israel. Israel can twist the arms of any president. You don’t want to freeze the settlements? Okay, never mind. You don’t want to take responsibility for the crimes in Gaza? Okay, never mind. You don’t want to end the occupation? Okay, never mind. This is not the conduct of a Nobel laureate and president.
A consolation prize: Perhaps the Nobel will serve as a catalyst, a kind of alarm clock ringing to wake the laureate in the final minute. Unlike in Afghanistan and Iraq, in this region he will not need to shed American blood to secure peace. It’s enough to show political determination, apply pressure and use Israel’s isolation and dependency for the cause of peace. Israel needs a friend to save it from itself.
Obama now needs to choose whether to join the laureates-in-vain – from Henry Kissinger to Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat – or join the great ones, like Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, Mikhail Gorbachev, Aung San Suu Kyi and Mother Teresa. It’s true, no one has ever won the prize twice (except the International Committee of the Red Cross), but no one has won it on a down payment, either. If Obama brings peace to the Middle East, perhaps Oslo will change its ways once more and grant him the Nobel again – once as a down payment, once by right. Congratulations, Mr. President, now it’s time to settle your debt. [continued…]
Isn’t there anyone in the White House to remind Mr Obama that the Israelis have never obliged a US president who asked for an end to the building of colonies for Jews – and Jews only – on Arab land? Bill Clinton demanded this – it was written into the Oslo accords – and the Israelis ignored him. George W Bush demanded an end to the fighting in Jenin nine years ago. The Israelis ignored him. Mr Obama demands a total end to all settlement construction. “They just don’t get it, do they?” an Israeli minister – apparently Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – was reported to have said when the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, reiterated her president’s words. That’s what Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s crackpot foreign minister – he’s not as much a crackpot as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but he’s getting close – said again on Thursday. “Whoever says it’s possible to reach in the coming years a comprehensive agreement,” he announced before meeting Mr Obama’s benighted and elderly envoy George Mitchell, “… simply doesn’t understand the reality.”
Across Arabia, needless to say, the Arab potentates continue to shake with fear in their golden minarets. That great Lebanese journalist Samir Kassir – murdered in 2005, quite possibly by Mr Obama’s new-found Syrian chums – put it well in one of his last essays. “Undeterred by Egypt since Sadat’s peace,” he wrote, “convinced of America’s unfailing support, guaranteed moral impunity by Europe’s bad conscience, and backed by a nuclear arsenal that was acquired with the help of Western powers, and that keeps growing without exciting any comment from the international community, Israel can literally do anything it wants, or is prompted to do by its leaders’ fantasies of domination.” [continued…]