Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Obama's speech in Cairo: What's next?

President Barack Obama’s speech in Cairo is set to usher in a “new era” of American policies in the Middle East. US politics have long been dominated by “domestic pressures” that have inhibited our ability to practice genuine diplomacy and spread democracy in the region.

The President is sure to offer the same eloquent rhetoric that led voters to overwhelmingly select him as the 44th President of the United States. But, it remains to be seen whether the rhetoric will turn into reality, and subsequently foster a “real” peace in the Middle East.

The Administration has taken a firm stance with Israel concerning settlement expansion projects leading to a subtle rift with Netanyahu. The disagreement over Israeli settlement expansion between the two leaders came shortly after they expressed their differences in strategies dealing with Iran’s nuclear program.

Obama believes dealing with Israel-Palestine would calm tensions with Iran. The Israeli Prime Minister believes the Israeli-Palestinian issue is irrelevant to their scuttle with Iran, and contends that Iran posses an immediate threat to Israel’s sovereignty and should be addressed first.

Could the differences between the two new Administrations be a sign America is finally ready to take the training wheels of Israel subjecting it to the law of the land? Could the free ride Israel has been given brokered by lobbies, propagated by the media, passed by compromised integrities in congress, and unconsciously bankrolled by American tax-payers slowly be coming to an end?

CNI has recently conducted a 17-day Political Pilgrimage of all six states in the Middle East. The delegation led by former Ambassador Stephen Buck and Harriet Fulbright, held sit down meetings with leadership in the region –including leaders of Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Israeli Knesset.

What we found was an overwhelmingly optimistic people who believe that a “real” peace is possible, but reconciliation between the “political players” will have to be step one.

Halting settlement expansion projects, tearing down illegal outpost, opening the Gaza borders for transportation and goods exchange, and direct dialog between Israel and Palestine’s “elected” officials, should be initiated immediately, and are a rudimentary element to a lasting peace process. Harriet Fulbright and a large group of former diplomats are urging the State Department to adopt these initiatives by submitting a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Obama will give his speech in Cairo tomorrow and what will come out of it remains to be seen. But, as the President’s operatives set the stage for a landmark speech, we hope the President is also setting the stage for new US-Mid East policies and diplomatic efforts –built solely from the fabric of the National Interest.