U.S. President Barack Obama is scheduled to head to the Middle East soon. His visit aims to revitalize the peace process and urge the relevant parties to continue negotiations to reach a solution which Arabs would consider permanent, fair and comprehensive. The aim is also to find a solution for the Arab-Israeli conflict that is accordance with the initiative “land for peace.”
The upcoming visit is to reflect the changes made in the Obama Administration and its stance on foreign policy. Changes include the appointment of Senator John Kerry as the new U.S. Secretary of State, Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense and Philip Gordon as Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs.
Changes in the Administration
Such changes reflect the administration’s desire to pay more attention to the peace process, which has become U.S. presidents’ tradition during their second and final term. However, what is unusual this time is that the interest in the peace process comes in parallel with the Obama administration’s efforts to fight extremism and terrorism, its efforts to keep track of Arab Spring events – particularly in Syria – and following up on the requirements of emerging democracies in the Middle East.
What is unusual this time is that the interest in the peace process comes in parallel with the Obama administration’s efforts to fight extremism and terrorismMazen Hayek
The question today is about the Israeli prime minister and whether he can provide “concessions” in order to facilitate the way back to negotiations. In this case, the bottleneck of a settlement solution, which was created by Israel to hinder the peace process, can be avoided.
Can a comprimise be reached?
As for the second question, it is whether Obama’s second administration can put pressure on Israel and play the role of “truthful mediator” in the Arab Israeli conflict in order to reach a “historic compromise,” which Obama’s administration was unable to do in its first term.
The third question has to do with the Palestinian side, in light of the current disputes between the Palestinian leadership as well as the weakness of a legitimate authority that would take up negotiations again, it is prudent to ask whether they can make a commitment on behalf of the Palestinians.
The fourth question revolves around the outcome of negotiations between the United States and Iran and how it will impact the peace process as well as the situation in Syria. This is in light of Iran’s attachment to Hezbollah and what the Islamic republic may ask the Shiite group to do militarily, whether or not negotiations succeed.
The last question revolves around the importance of the Arab Spring and the democratic transformations in the Arab world - especially developments in Syria – during Obama’s second term in comparison to the peace process.
However, the question remains: which one will take place first and is in the interest of the U.S. as well as other concerned parties? The peace process or the Arab Spring?
(Mazen Hayek is a MarComms & Media practitioner in MENA; weekly op-ed columnist in "An-Nahar" Lebanon, he can be followed on Twitter: @HayekMG)