Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Slither of Hope In The Middle East

Barack Obama sacked adviser over talks with Hamas

Left: Barack Obama had criticized former President Jimmy Carter for holding direct talks with Hamas.

Robert Malley told The Times that he had been in regular contact with Hamas, which controls Gaza and is listed by the US State Department as a "terrorist organization." Such talks, he stressed, were related to his work for a conflict resolution think-tank and had no connection with his position on Mr. Obama’s Middle East advisory council.

Left: Robert Malley, an expert on Middle East policy, and a former senior aide to President Clinton on Palestinian- Israeli negotiations.

“I’ve never hidden the fact that in my job with the International Crisis Group I meet all kinds of people,” he added.

Ben LaBolt, a spokesman for Mr. Obama, responded swiftly: “Rob Malley has, like hundreds of other experts, provided informal advice to the campaign in the past. He has no formal role in the campaign and he will not play any role in the future.” The rapid departure of Mr Malley followed 48 hours of heated clashes between John McCain, the Republican nominee-elect, and Mr Obama over Middle East policy.

Mr Obama, who has been trying to assuage suspicion towards him among the influential Jewish and pro-Israel lobby, spoke at a Washington reception marking the 60th anniversary of Israeli independence on Thursday when he promised that his commitment to the country’s security would be “unshakeable.”

However, NBC reported one of Obama campaign's informal Middle East advisers, Robert Malley, confirms to NBC NEWS that he has resigned from any role in the campaign because critics have tried to make an issue of his meetings with Hamas. The Times of London called him about it this morning, and has posted a story online. As a result, he called Obama's campaign today and took himself out of any future role.

Apparently, his ties were not permanently severed because Obama sent senior foreign policy adviser Robert Malley to Egypt and Syria over the last few weeks to outline his policy on the Middle East. The thrust of sending Malley as an envoy was to convey the Obama administration would take into greater account Egyptian and Syrian interests.

Obama, according to the aide, plans to initiate a diplomatic initiative towards Syria, reversing the policy of President Bush, who regards Syria as a leading supporter of insurgency in Iraq and a threat to Israel. Robert Malley met both Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to explain Obama's agenda for a "New Middle East."

An equidistant US foreign policy, which attempts to mediate a just and peaceful resolution of the Palestinian / Israeli 'conflict' seems doubtful from the evidence currently available to us -- in light of President-elect Obama's senatorial record on the issue and his campaign rhetoric. However, there is some intimation that a more balanced and pragmatic policy may take hold in Palestine considering the Obama administration has said it plans to include all the factions of the Taliban in its Afghanistan / Pakistan proposals to redress the utter failures of the war -- pursuing a rapport that includes economic aid as well as negotiations to rein in the vibrant insurgency. A similar strategy was advised by the Iraq Study Group in its findings that General Petraeus implemented as part of the so-called surge in the Iraq War.

The Obama administration has suggested that it will introduce its own foreign policy agenda, which would be based on a pluralist approach; involving a combination of soft and hard diplomacy to settle regional and global conflicts. The Middle East desperately needs a peace-maker. Will Barack Obama, the US President-elect, rise to the challenge?

See also, Obama to Explore New Approach in Afghanistan War;

US to drop Mullah Omar from blacklist;

On world map, Obama is expected to quickly take a new direction;

Carter: Obama will waste no time pursuing Middle East peace.

Modification Of The “Regime Change” Prism

These revelations are of course not dispostive in the Palestine millieu, which is heavily influenced by Israeli interest groups operating at the apex of the US political apparatus and who wield tremendous leverage to influence the crafting of policy toward the Palestinians and Israelis.

The prospects for peace and justice in Palestine seem tentative indeed, yet there remains an aperture, evident in the open posture of the Obama administration, which we must not allow to close. The American people and the rest of the world must continue to exert pressure on the Obama administration to urge it to treat Israel as it does any other actor. A more balanced approach toward Israel and Palestinian aspirations for a rectification of "the constant wound and constant sore" the occupation embodies would enhance American influence in global affairs as it becomes in earnest an honest broker defending US national interests in difficult theaters of foreign policy.

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