Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Preconditions doom Mideast peace talks

The Press-Enterprise, 10:00 PM PDT on Friday, July 20, 2007


President Bush's recent call for an international meeting on Israeli-Palestinian peace this fall may sound like progress to some. However, for many Arabs the new initiative will look nothing but suspicious and pointless.

This is the case because the Bush administration has been leading a misguided strategy toward the peace process, a strategy based on pressuring Palestinians to meet unattainable Israeli requirements for serious negotiations.

The preconditions strategy goes back to former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who favored a policy based on unilateral Israeli moves rather than on mutually agreed-upon and parallel concessions between Israel and the Palestinians.

Bush followed Sharon by calling for Palestinian regime change in 2002 and by requiring Palestinians, through the so-called road map, to meet several unfeasible demands, such as ending violence, before continuing to the plan's noteworthy phases.

By the end of 2003, Sharon announced his plans to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza. The disengagement policy was a blow to the basic foundation of the current peace process, which is designed to enable Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate a mutually acceptable solution to their conflict.

When Hamas rose to power in 2006, Israel demanded it disarm, accept previous peace agreements and recognize the Jewish state. Nobody expected Hamas to accept these requests. Yet, the Western world, led by the United States, adopted Israeli's preconditions, imposing a devastating embargo on all Palestinians.

Since Hamas took over Gaza last month, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met four times. Yet, none of these summits addressed serious negotiations issues.

In this context, who should expect Arabs to buy into Bush's new initiative? After all, Bush has little time left in office, his Iraq strategy is bankrupt and his legacy may be too badly damaged to salvage. And, Olmert is not in a better situation after his failure in the war against Lebanon.

What Arabs want from the United States is not another peace gathering, but progress on the ground. For that to happen, the United States must pressure Israel to give up its "preconditions strategy" and to start meaningful peace talks immediately. Delaying such talks is too risky.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Another futile PR stunt abroad

Published By: The Providence Journal

01:00 AM EDT on Saturday, July 7, 2007

By: Alaa Bayoumi

PRESIDENT BUSH has a unique ability to stick to his policies and rhetoric even if reality and practice prove them wrong. His recent announcement that he will appoint a special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) is no anomaly.

To read article's full text, please click here