Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Is their a sliver of hope for peace?

Here's an interview with Rami Khouri, editor of the Lebanese newspaper The Daily Star. His take on the recent conflict in Gaza is simple and to the point. The disproportionate use of force on civilian populations has historically only strengthened insurgencies and resistance movements. Israel has used grossly disproportionate force against civilians in Gaza, with over 700 dead and over 3000 injured, many of them women and children.

So if Khouri's prediction is true, will a politically stronger Hamas alter the equation and force national reconciliation with Fatah, bring about a thaw in Arab relations, and accelerate regional and international efforts towards a sustainable peace with Israel? Or will it have the opposite effect and effectively kill the peace process for the foreseeable future?

I suspect the latter for three reasons. First, Hamas must be seen as an extension of the geopolitical alliance of Syria, Iran and Hezballah on one hand, and Western backed Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan on the other. A stronger Hamas will probably further divide both camps.

Secondly, it is simply too risky for Arab leaders to consider full-fledged peace negotiations with Israel at the moment for fears of the backlash from raging Arab masses. This includes the Syrians who had completed several rounds of indirect talks with Israel via Turkey and were proposing a move to direct negotiations soon.

Finally, the only hope for comprehensive peace - ironically enough - comes through Washington. Considering Barack Obama's economic problems at home, he is unlikely to give the Middle East the attention it deserves, without which peace will remain elusive.

Consider these reasons and is there a sliver of hope for peace? My heart remains hopeful, but my brain just wont buy it. Call me a pessimist if you wish.

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