diplomacy


  • Iran threat pushing Arabs closer to normalization with Israel

    Iran threat pushing Arabs closer to normalization with Israel
    By Akiva Eldar

    …Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa notes that peace is not a light bulb easily switched on, but admits that the Arabs have made public-relations blunders. “An Israeli might be forgiven for thinking that every Muslim voice is raised in hatred,” he writes, “because that is usually the only one he hears. Just as an Arab might be forgiven for thinking every Israeli wants the destruction of every Palestinian.” Khalifa urges the Arabs to communicate directly with the Israelis and tell them their story.

    If Olmert’s defense of the settlements was grist for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s mill, the Bahraini prince’s call for normalization made Obama’s weekend. The start of normalization between the nations is a key item on the president’s agenda. It’s the undertone intended to ease the creation of a blueprint for a final-status agreement.

    LINK: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1102824.html

  • U.S. Pressure on Arab States Grows, But It Misses Where Hope Lies

    U.S. Pressure on Arab States Grows
    By Kim Ghattas

    The Obama administration has been frustrated by the lack of movement on all sides but has reportedly been particularly disappointed by how little Arab countries have been willing to do or even promise.

    Wary from past experience of negotiating with the Israelis, the official Arab position has been one of “show us the goods, then we will talk”.

    Link to BBC Article.

    This just about sums about what I have seen and heard in the region. No one is in the mood for more talk of rapprochement with Israel. With the United States, definitely. There is still a hope that the United States will provide the leadership to move governments in the region toward a new direction of engagement with their people. But the war on Gaza was far more of a watershed than anyone understands in Western capitals, especially in …

  • The War in Gaza: Reflections on An Interview in the Midst of War at the Half Year Anniversary

    In a December 31, 2008 conference call with Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, an American grassroots Jewish organization dedicated to promoting a negotiated two-state resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Marc shared his “on-the-ground perspective of the…violence in Gaza and southern Israel and the need for U.S. Leadership.”

    Listen to the call here or read a transcript of the interview here.

    Marc reflects  now:

    I stand by much of what I concluded in that interview. I remember vividly the circumstances of that interview. I was on the floor of a very cold apartment at night, unsure if i would be heard because my only connection was skype (as usual no budget for my work), and my computer only worked with skype on the floor.

    I was impressed with the questions I received, and it was rather a relief to reflect on the issues instead of living it. In the first days …

  • We Are Going to Keep Telling the Truth ‘Til It Stops Working

    I continue to be haunted, almost fixated on President Obama’s simple words about the joke around the White House.  It is in my opinion, a stunning formula for presidentially-led social change. After four decades of watching American presidents, supposedly the most powerful agents of change in the Arab/Israeli conflict, fail to make any change. Now Obama is coming along at a good time for change, in that so much of the world knows that Israel must change, including most American Jews, finally, finally. But he could be still failing miserably at this. No, it really is his genius. The fact is the most passionate president on peace and justice for Palestinians is Jimmy Carter, but he is not believed at all by most Jews or trusted. Why? Because he has a nasty habit of saying in public things that are so overly optimistic about seasoned enemies and militant groups with …

  • Obama’s Challenge to the Muslim World

    Obama’s Challenge to the Muslim World

    By Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf

    (excerpts below come from here)

    The historic significance of President Obama’s speech to the Muslim world in Cairo cannot be overstated.

    Never before has an American president spoken to the global Muslim community. His speech marked a major shift in American foreign policy. Obama directly enlisted a religion to build global peace and to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, end nuclear proliferation and stop terrorism.

    In just a few sentences he demolished the phony theory of the “Clash of Civilizations,” which insists that Islam and the West must always be in conflict. Instead, he declared the United States is not at war with Islam and outlined a plan for how the conflict can be resolved.

    Perhaps most important, he put religion at the core of the peacemaking process. For too long, Americans had come to fear Islam as an

  • Dissident Writer Michel Kilo Freed in Syria

    This is wonderful news. Michel is a proud Syrian patriot and a pioneer of nonviolent approaches to change in the Middle East. He deserves all the honors that can be bestowed on him for his courageous stances and his reputation as a man of great integrity and generosity. All he did was have the foresight to describe where Syria is going anyway in the age of Obama. I understand the nervousness of the regime in the age of Cheney and Rumsfeld, but our nonviolent citizens are the greatest assets of every civilization, not a danger. This is the lesson of reform that needs to come to every society in the Middle East, including the so-called democracies.

    Syrian writer and pro-democracy campaigner Michel Kilo has been released from prison after serving a three-year sentence…While he was in prison, Syria established diplomatic relations with Lebanon and exchanged ambassadors….He said he was in

  • A Rational Confrontation with Iran: Time for a New Middle Eastern Approach

    A must read by Roger Cohen on Iran, the Arab states and Israel. I think that Roger underestimates the threat from Iran to its neighbors and to Israel, but he is right on that the neoconservative logic of dominance, isolation, and intimidation, and purposeful perpetuation of the inhumane status quos from Egypt to the West Bank have actually fed the rise of a militant Iran. A grand strategy requires a reversal of the last thirty years of mistakes. It also requires a reversal of tendency in the Middle East to engage in the perpetual fallacies of ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’. This has led to never ending rivalries that is the intellectual opposite of notions of collective security that have allowed Europe, for example, to thrive in recent decades. Engagement with Iran done well is going to shift the balance of power in Iran which will ultimately …

  • A Nuclear Treaty With Russia: Global Implications

    Hello readers, welcome to my first videoblog. Please excuse the moon-like effect. I appear to be on the other side of the galaxy because I used a webcam. My lips catch up with the sound usually in few minutes. Pretend this is a podcast and give me your feedback!…

  • GEORGE MITCHELL FOR ISRAEL AND PALESTINE? A NEW HOPE

    A surprise development in the million dollar question of who President Obama will appoint to oversee  Israeli/Palestinian conflict intervention. I had lobbied hard in these pages earlier in the year for George Mitchell to be sent in. More recently there had been much speculation and controversy over the appointment of Dennis Ross. Serious media reports now indicate that former Senator Mitchell may be a strong possibility, and that this will meet with a much better reception in the world beyond the United States. I want to reiterate my arguments earlier for why Mitchell is crucial.

    Here is an excerpt from Change in U.S. Middle East Policy:

    The president must be a person who sees the need for constant engagement on the ground in Israel, so that both sides have a third party they can rely on to push for compliance to agreements. Both sides of the conflict need …

  • Radwan Masmoudi on Urgent Questions about Gaza and Global Demonstrations

    Radwan is one of the most passionate voices for Islam and democracy in the world today. He is an important force for change in Washington. He wrote this letter to me:

    Dear Marc:

    I just participated in a conference call, organized by the Council on Foreign Relations, with Shibley Telhami on the situation in Gaza. I took a lot of notes, and wanted to ask several questions, but unfortunately did not have an opportunity to ask them. So, I wanted to share my comments and questions with you in the hope that they may help us to find the right solution to this very dangerous situation in Gaza and in the Middle East.

    First some important comments:

    1. It is very dangerous and counter-productive for the US to be always siding “unconditionally” with Israel. Yes, of course, Israel has “the right to respond”. To be fair and balanced, and therefore …

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