By Megan Wanner
President Barack Obama plans to promote peace among Palestinian, Israeli and Egyptian leaders when each visits Washington within the month. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is visiting today, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is scheduled to visit May 26 and Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas May 28. Obama plans to urge each leader to take initiatives towards peace by offering ways in which the United States can partner with these countries to help.
Palestine and Israel part of a whole
This approach to the Middle East tensions is different from the Bush administration as Obama is recognizing the Palestinian and Israeli conflict as one that affects the Middle East as whole, not one that stands on its own.
“Obama has a different policy from what Bush previously had,” said Elon University History professor Rodney Clare. “Bush separated Palestinian and Israeli problems from the rest of the Middle East issues but Obama is linking the Palestinian/Israeli issue to peace as a whole for the Middle East. He sees a need to address their issues with regard to Middle Eastern peace as a whole becoming a reality. He’s also asking for a greater compromise on the Israeli part.”
Hands-on rather than hands-off
Obama’s approach is also more hands-on then the Bush administration as he is not only willing to engage in peace initiatives in an effort to improve the U.S. image in the Muslim world, but he is making these initiatives a priority.
“I believe that now is a good time because President Obama appears very committed to the ‘peace process,’” said Elon University Political Science professor Safia Swimelar. You can tell this in part from his entire world view which sees that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is intimately connected with major other global security issues such as Iraq, Iran, Afghani-Pakastani, etc. That in order to solve wider problems in the world, this problem should be solved. They are connected. Given Obama’s commitment to diplomacy and a more even hand on this issue, I am hopeful that there is an opportunity now. He has clearly made it a priority, and an early one, which is quite different to the Bush administration which did not see this issue as much of a priority, and despite the fact that a more moderate/liberal Israeli government was partially in power then, we didn’t get anywhere.”
The two-state approach Obama is proposing is not one with which Israel is compliant though many see it as having potential for effectiveness.
“Obama’s two state solution seems promising,” said Elon University Political Science professor Rudy Zarzar. “However, this all depends on how willing is Obama is in pushing his peace offer. However, there are indications that Obama is serious about his interest in ending this impasse which is entering its sixtieth year. Some of these indications are: he already expressed interest and support for the two state solution; he has declared before the world that solving this problem is a matter of national interest for the US; he already has former Senator George Mitchell sent to the Middle East to serve as a mediator between the two sides and with the Arab States; and finally he already asked some key figures in the conflict to come to the US for discussions.”
Iran’s Nuclear Ambitions
An obstacle is the unwillingness of the Israeli government to comply with peace initiatives between Palestine and Israel as the conflict that has raged for years and is not a priority to them. Israel would rather discuss Iran’s budding nuclear ambitions as they see this as a more pressing issue.
“Basically, Israel’s more concerned about Iran’s nuclear power right now than the Palestinian state so that’s a problem because Palestinians want their own government,” said sophomore International Studies major Amanda Olmstead. “I think that Obama and his administration will hopefully work out some of the issues there. There is just so much hatred right now because the U.S. gives the most foreign aid to Israel which shows this historic dislike for Arabs and Islam. I think the Obama administration is really going to have to work on that because right now the Arabs don’t trust America so why are they going to concede to us if they don’t trust us.”
Overall, Obama’s peace initiative will include many discussions as well as compromises on the parts of everyone involved.
“Bringing in a summit of leaders will hopefully calm down tensions,” said Freshman Communications major Anne Lukens. “I think in order to promote peace it is necessary to have open discussions.”
Check out what sophomore International Studies major Amanda Olmstead had to say: