First 100 Days: The next steps in the Middle East

By Reuters Staff
February 13, 2009

President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and George Mitchell in the Oval Office of the White House.

President Barack Obama inherits a distinctly gloomy outlook for progress in settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Is change really possible?

Reuters asked Oliver McTernan, the director a UK charity called Forward Thinking and two experts from the Brookings Institution in Washington — former Ambassador to Israel Martin S. Indyk and Kenneth Pollack — what steps the Obama administration should take next in the Middle East.

21 comments

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Although war is often advanced by a ruling party, peace when attempted must be pursued by national governments representing the people. Ultimately, peace must be proposed and advanced of the people, by the people and for the people. A peace which is not advanced in this manner can scarcely be considered a lasting peace.
The problem with the peace accords in the region since 1993 is that they have not been proposed by the people and for the people. Arafat pursued a type of war and peace which was for his advantage and did not consider involving the Palestinian people in this endeavor.
Any agreement with but a portion of the Palestinian people will not ensure a lasting peace. The present situation is that the pro-western Fatah party is incapable of enforcing their will upon the ruling Hamas and unfortunately the radical Hamas have no intention at this stage in forging peace.
For the above reasons the two state solution at this time will offer no options for diplomacy. This will continue while radicalism thrives and proper representation within the Palestinian people is lacking. Therefore, what has to be considered is the possibility of offering to those people presently represented by the Fatah party on the West Bank definite improvements in their quality of life; the package should include not only financial incentives but proper representation in an organized government which must at this stage be relegated temporarily with the State of Israel.
This situation if it can achieve real benefit for the peoples of the region should not be considered negatively on ideological grounds. The pragmatic benefits of some sense of statehood although limited when operated for the benefit of all greatly outweigh the evils inherent in a misdirected, radical and total nationalistic identity.
The upshot of this approach is that the Gaza enclave should be viewed as a separate entity and eventually as an independent state of the region; the realization of Palestinian statehood. The West Bank should be relegated as a self-governed area for an indefinite period of time closely connected with the State of Israel. It seems that under certain circumstances this is a pragmatic and viable option for the region. Even if this plan will not be adopted in the diplomatic efforts the actual positions of the parties will be pushing it forward.

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