A Missed Opportunity

By Joel Tauber, President of CALME

At a time when there are few true opportunities emanating from the Middle East, the United States should be doing its utmost to take advantage of each. In the days immediately following the spark to this current crisis – Hezbollah’s cross-border attack on Israel – several of the key Arab League countries strongly rebuked Hezbollah’s actions. Saudi’s Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal said, “These acts will pull the whole region back to years ago, and we cannot simply accept them.” Similarly, Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak issued a joint statement warning of the risk of, “the region being dragged into ‘adventurism’ that does not serve Arab interests.” Considering the Arab League’s key members rarely offer statements with even a hint of condoning Israeli military action, these remarks should have signaled that an opportunity existed for the U.S. to join with its key Arab allies in finding a solution. One potential outlet could have been the formation of a high-level working group with the Quartet and these Arab allies wherein the members had frank and candid discussions, but clearly worked together toward an answer.

Unfortunately, that opening seems to have passed. According to the July 28 New York Times, these same leaders have reversed their talking points. The Saudis have gone so far as to suggest that their groundbreaking 2002 peace plan – recognizing Israel in exchange for Israel’s withdrawal to the 1967 borders – could be off the table. This is thanks in large measure to the U.S.’s continued reticence toward showing that it will work to end the violence (on both sides of Israel) at the highest level until it is solved.

CALME has long been making a point that must be reiterated. The strife in the Middle East is interrelated, and no flare-up of violence can be dealt with completely independent of the others. Stopping the violence between Israel and Hezbollah right now will only be a short-term answer, as the President says, but that is due to the fact that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians will continue to simmer. Both issues must be addressed with active and sustained involvement by the President and his top advisors.

Any steps will require the Bush Administration’s devoted attention for the remainder of his term. Without it, there will be even fewer opportunities to grab onto and embrace.

Explore posts in the same categories: CALME Luminaries, Middle East Peace, U.S. Role

One Comment on “A Missed Opportunity”

  1. Peter Flemming Says:

    Alas, all too true. Instead of expressing shock at Israel’s wanton bombardment of Lebanon, the administration hastened a re-supply of its most deadly missiles, and raised unrealistic and unreasonable objections to Lebanon’s, and the world’s, plea for a cease-fire, so as to support and encourage continuation by Israel of its unconscionable assault. (1)

    And still sees nothing, hears nothing, feels nothing, of the pain of the Muslim and Christian Arab populations across Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Palestine.

    More power to CALME.

    (1) Remember, on the first day of the Lebanese war Israel shelled and bombed nearly 40 sites across the length and breadth of Lebanon; Hezbollah launched less than 10 rockets in response [per NYTimes chart, 8/13]. Some tit, some tat.

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