Squaring the circle

A man called Barack Hussein delivered a keynote speech in Cairo that was meant to redefine the relationship between the USA and the Muslim world; it was a flowing speech of rousing oratory worthy of Obama himself but the question of how to square this conundrum still remains.

A man called Barack Hussein delivered a keynote speech in Cairo that was meant to redefine the relationship between the USA and the Muslim world; it was a flowing speech of rousing oratory worthy of Obama himself but the question of how to square this conundrum still remains.

He dampened expectations with caution that one speech will not change decades of mistrust. Where he stands now is on a bleak vista with clouds on every horizon; Iraq is in a balance, Hamas is rising in significance, Iran is more or less past the point of no return to full nuclear status and Israel-Palestine is still in stasis.

The Israeli-Palestine situation now looks more solvable compared to Iran but both sides have opted out of peace; the Israelis have voted a brick wall into government with a right-wing coalition poised to resist any suggestion of changing the status quo.

The Palestinians have taken a dangerous detour down the Hamas cul-de-sac with the venal and corrupt Fatah paralysed by inactive leadership.

The reality of global dynamics has changed so much but facts on the ground have not changed much, how the region reacts to this, will determine the outcome.

Historically, the USA has supported Israel for more than the cultural ties between the nations, given that the US has a substantial Jewish population that has contributed greatly to its development. And it goes deeper than this.

The state of Israel was founded with the blessing of both USA and USSR; who both wanted to manipulate it to their own strategic ends.

The Russians dithered in 1948 and the Americans did not hesitate to deliver arms to save the Jews; they saw a strategic ally that could act as a proxy in the region.

The Russians then switched to Arab side and have armed them over the years; Nasser in Egypt, Asad in Syria, Kaddafi in Libya. However, the Americans made the better choice; better to trust a man who has everything to lose than one who has nothing to lose. Every war the Israelis ever fought was for survival while the Arabs fought for conquest and lost.

The Palestinian situation became a prism through which we see the middle-east since the Arab world took it as an insult to their religion to have the state of Israel in their midst and the West saw Israel as a firewall against Islamic extremism.

The wider Arab world used the Palestinian conflict as a diversion to absorb public anger yet the truth is that no Arab nation is free and democratic. George Bush saw this conflict with a biblical perspective when he perceived events as an unstoppable prophesy from the book of Revelations.

Obama has realised what Israel failed to grasp at the last elections; Israel was America’s agent in the middle-east but since America invaded Iraq the dynamics have changed, they no longer need Israel like they used to.

America doesn’t have friends, it has interests, and if your interests coincide then the world is yours. The interests of USA and Israel have been slowly diverging over the years; only in Iran do they see a real common purpose although the Israelis want an immediate air-strike, while Obama favours a détente.

Now, the fault-line has moved to the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, which is the vortex driving the US foreign policy at the moment. Obama will play for time; he will hope this Israeli coalition of the unwilling will fracture at first impact, he will also have to hope the Palestinians tire of Hamas.

Sadly a three-state solution is most likely; the West bank will go to Fatah and Gaza will stay with Hamas simply because the two cannot conjoin geographically or psychologically, it is like giving Rwanda a district in Malawi.

A West Bank State will be established and pampered with western aid as a sweetener for rejecting terror while Gaza will continue to choke because Hamas has deep control in every aspect.

The events in the Holy Land divide humanity and some see it as an endless conflict that will never end. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, there are practical steps that both sides can take to resolve this, just like Rwanda did after the genocide.

The first step is to separate the past from present and the second one is the realisation that the other side will never go away. How do you separate the past from the current situation in Israel-Palestine?

Roman Emperor Vespasian crushed Israel in 70AD and dispersed the Jews renaming it Palestina, other groups were brought in to live there, these tribes later became Islamic after 640AD and the rest is history.

A growing number of Israelis and Arabs now realise that both sides are here to stay so they might as well get along. Pride is deadly; it has killed more people than any other emotion in history. Right now, neither side can face the humiliation of compromise, let alone defeat.

So we wait until both sides find a composition of words that can save face, then we will have to endure years of more coverage about the same vicious cycle of violence.

Some say Israel needs an existential threat to bind its complex parts together; others say the Arab leaders want a scapegoat to blame for all their misfortunes.

Either way this circle will not square easily. The first 4,000 years have been tumultuous, let’s hope we’ll solve it in the next 4,000 words.

Contact: ramaisibo@hotmail.com

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