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The Ripe Moment for Peace is over
By Rawhi Afaghani — It might be too early to discuss the consequences of the Gaza war on the Middle East peace process, but as a conflict analysis and resolution specialist I fee compel to do so. On several occasions President Barack Obama mentioned that the Israeli-Arab conflict, one of the most complex and protracted conflicts in the modern history, will be a top priority on his foreign policy agenda. I unfortunately strongly believe that it might be already too late even for the Obama administration to make headway on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The ripe moment for peace was lost and it may take another cycle of violence before the Palestinians and the Israelis can talk peace again.
It is sad to realize that the recent Israeli war on Gaza marginalized peace efforts on all sides and pushed any possible peace building attempts by the Obama administration or moderates on the Israeli and the Palestinian sides back to a pre-Oslo peace era. While the time might be ripe for the US to get its hands dirty in the peace process after a new ambitious administration, the Palestinians and the Israelis are currently not ready to strike a peace deal.
The Gaza attacks led to the radicalization of more Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and among Arabs. This is evident on the front pages of the Arab press such as the Syrian Al Watan printing headlines saying “With Every Killing of an Arab Child, Dozens of Resistance Fighters are Born. ” These sentiments could be indeed the fuel of another cycle of violence and will undermine any peace attempts on the Palestinian side. Although, Hamas was strongly hit by Israel’s advanced weapons, which wiped the entire infrastructure of the Islamic movement, it is without a doubt that Hamas emerged politically stronger in the eyes of the Palestinians and Arabs.
Reactions on the streets of the Arab and international capitals were mainly in favor of Hamas as a ‘legitimate resistant movement,’ which led to boosting its popularity among Arabs and the Palestinians. Hamas political leadership in Damascus quickly realized the potential for political gain and was able to utilize it by pushing for tougher resistance in Gaza, while winning the hearts and minds of the Palestinian and the Arabic societies. Make no mistake peace will be very low on Hamas’ political agenda.
While Hamas is gaining popularity, the Palestinian Authority headed by moderate Mahmoud Abbas was harshly criticized by many in the Arab world after being accused of siding against the Islamic movement during the war on Gaza. Abbas is now perceived as a lame duck and as a result of the Gaza attacks he w as marginalized and no longer has credibility to discuss peace issues on behalf of the Palestinians. This contributed to more obstructing any peace efforts on the part of the Palestinian since the Abbas government has been seen as the only “partner in peace” for Israel.
On the Israeli side, the Gaza attacks further disconnected the Israeli society from the harsh reality of occupation. The majority of the Israelis believe the war on Gaza was a victory against Hamas and it achieved its main goals. The history of Israel’s wars, including the war on Gaza, confirms that the Israeli society leans toward the right-wing political spectrum during and after a war. Opinion polls on the upcoming Israeli elections, scheduled for February 10th, show that an Israeli right-wing coalition headed by the hard-line Likud party could take 65 to 75 seats at the Knesset, a very comfortable majority that would be hard to challenge. The winning of a right-wing coalition in Israel will decrease any opportunity for restarting peace talks between the two sides. Such scenario was previously maintained by two Likud governments headed by Benjamin Netanyahu and latter by Ariel Sharon. The consequences will be another status quo, where neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis will have “partner in peace.”
The l ast part of this puzzle is the role of the new US administration in the Middle East peace process. At some point during the Bush administration, there was a ripe moment for peace between the Palestinian and the Israelis. Nonetheless, President George W. Bush chose not to act. On the contrary, President Obama is already rolling up his sleeves to undertake such a challenge. A step in the right direction, President Obama just appointed a man of a Leba nese descend and a seasoned mediator, Senator George Mitchell as the next Middle East Envoy.
President Obama’s quick actions lead us to believe that the US is intended to make a change in its foreign policy concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, following the War in Gaza the US might not be capable to erect a common ground between the two sides to talk peace. While the moment is ripe on the American part to deal with the conflict, the war on Gaza destroyed any chance for a ripe moment for peace on both the Israeli and the Palestinian sides. Perhaps it might take another cycle of new politicians and/or another cycle of violence to acquire another mature timing for peace.
Rawhi Afaghani is a conflict analysis and resolution20specialist and media analyst. The author grew up in a Palestinian refugee camp in the West Bank and now lives and works in Washington, DC. Mr. Afaghani can be reach by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.
The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.
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