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by Walter Bingham


Obama acts like a bull in a china shop.

Well, here we are. Another time, another US President, another Secretary of State, another Middle East Envoy, and yet another peace initiative. All expressing the commitment that during their watch, peace between the Palestinian Arabs and Israel will miraculously materialize. Of course, they expended volumes of words about the difficulties, about the unwarranted destruction of much of Gaza, how the Palestinians deserve their own state, and of their dream that what's then left of Israel will finally be recognized as legitimate, both by our neighbours and by the rest of the Arab world.

It's amazing how the Americans have already decided the fate of Israel, without even knowing who the new Prime Minister of Israel will be and what policies he or she will pursue, although the US is using every trick in the book to promote Tzipi Livni. Because they believe themselves to be all-powerful and beyond criticism, the new President and his administration are in fact acting over the heads of Israel, a sovereign nation. Well, come to think of it, Israel has no effective head at this time, so that makes their plan even easier.

Could that be the reason for the speed of Barack Obama's diplomatic activism dealing with the Middle East? Perhaps the accusation that he acts like a bull in a china shop is too harsh, but there is little indication that he had time to thoroughly evaluate and fully acquaint himself with the situation following the withdrawal of the IDF from Gaza, and the truth of the various reports by the aid organisations about a humanitarian crisis. It seems that, like many of the international news outlets that accept and publish without verification the accounts given to them by pro-Palestinian sources, President Barak Hussein Obama does not hide his sympathies for the Palestinian cause.

Whenever a new President of the United States takes office, the press eagerly awaits the news about his first telephone call to a foreign head of state as an indication of the importance he places on their influence in world affairs. Much to the disappointment of Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain, it was to President Nicolas Sarkozy of France. But a full day earlier, and the very first time Obama picked up the phone to speak to a foreign leader, it was to Mahmoud Abbas, the head of Fatah. A most significant and telling act.

The new US Middle East Envoy appointed by Obama is Senator George Mitchell, who is a veteran negotiator of the Northern Irish "troubles" during the past three decades. The US ascribes to him the "success" of the peace at present maintained between the Catholics, who want to return to the fold of the Irish Republic, and the Orangemen, the Protestants, who are staunchly defending the Union with the United Kingdom.

Mitchell proudly drew a parallel between the situation in Northern Ireland and our area, implying that what was achieved there can also become reality here. As an experienced diplomat, Mitchell and the relative newcomer to international diplomacy, Hillary Clinton, are deeply disappointing in their understanding of the aims and objects of the Palestinian Arabs, be they Hamas, Fatah or any other of the militant groups that spring up from time to time to claim a slice of the generous gifts showered upon them by the charitable world. It is certainly not peace, much less the normal coexistence of two sovereign states, that they want.

To draw a comparison between the Irish Troubles and the Israel-Palestinian conflict is the height of naiveté, or better still, abject nonsense.

The main two Palestinian Arab groups have more than once declared that their aim is the total elimination of the Jewish State; only their methods differ. Hamas, the more honest of the two, declares clearly that Jews have no business here, that Israel is occupying their land and that, in order to liberate it, the end justifies the means - any means; as they have shown, even deliberately sacrificing their women and children.

On the other hand, Mahmoud Abbas, who wrote his doctoral thesis denying the Holocaust and leads Fatah, is a wolf in sheep's clothing. He presents himself looking like a cultivated, moderate Westerner, but harbours the same aims as Hamas with respect to Israel's existence. Hamas wants to do it violently and all at once, whereas Fatah intends to set about it in stages. Their sometimes violent dispute is nothing more than an internal power struggle of who will be credited with the destruction of Israel and be rewarded with forming the first government of the new Palestinian State.

Speaking on 23 July 2000, even before the failure of the Camp David Summit, a member of the Palestinian Authority, Abu Ali Mustafa, hinted at the coming violence: "The issues of Jerusalem, the refugees and sovereignty will be decided on the ground and not in negotiations. At this point, it is important to prepare Palestinian society for the next step, because we will undoubtedly find ourselves in confrontation with Israel in order to create new facts on the ground. ...I believe that the situation in the future will be more violent than the Intifada."

"New facts on the ground" is a metaphor for "one state of Palestine and no Israel."

The IRA, the Irish Republican Army, which committed terrorist acts against the British Army and British interests, had as their main aim to sever the Five Counties of Northern Ireland from the UK and re-unify them with what is now the Irish Republic in the south. They never had any intention to eliminate the United Kingdom or a takeover of the British Isles. The circumstances of the Irish Troubles were totally different from those that obtain here in Israel. The dispute in Ireland was and still is only about turf and religion, whereas Israel is fighting an existential war.

The comparison made by the new US administration is therefore purely political, in order to underline President Obama's election commitments fostering good relations with the Arab world and to present him as a man of action.

Another reason why Obama may have selected Mitchell as his Middle East Envoy is Mitchell's history as the chairman of the Sharm el-Sheikh International Fact-Finding Committee to examine the Middle East crisis in 2000-2001, following which he published a lengthy report. Of that report, David Bedein of the Israel Resource News Agency wrote, "The Mitchell Commission took the position that Israel's security forces did not face a clear and present danger when faced with a mob trying to kill them with rocks and firebombs. [It] also rejected Israel's characterization of the conflict, 'as armed conflict short of war' (How else would you describe an army that fires mortar rounds into Israeli cities?)...."

George Mitchell's mother is an Arab textile worker from Lebanon who immigrated to the US at the age of 18. All this drives a nail into the coffin of any credibility that George Mitchell could ever have to serve as a Middle East envoy.

We've seen them come with their ambitions and we've seen them go empty-handed. Golda Meir summed up the chances of peace when she said: "We will have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us."

Walter Bingham is a veteran journalist and broadcaster from London who now lives in Jerusalem. His weekly radio programme, Walter's World, can be heard on Israel National

This article appeared Shevat 3, 5769 / 28 January 09 in Arutz-Sheva


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