President Obama Begins Pursuing Peace in the Middle East

By Carolyn VanBrocklin

Today marks the beginning of President Obama’s focus on diplomacy with the Middle East.  He will meet first with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.  Obama is following through on his campaign promises to bring peace to the conflicting countries in the Middle East.

President Obama shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu

President Obama shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu

“How does any country resolve a great crisis this deep? When we look back now we say a situation like that is never going to be easily resolved.  And 60 to 70 years later it still hasn’t been,” Dr. Glenn Scott, Professor of Communications at Elon University said.

According to a May 18 article in the Washington Post, the Obama administration is trying to promote dialogue between Israel, Iran and Syria. Obama’s Middle Eastern peace plan includes Israel’s complete withdrawal from the West Bank to its pre-1967 borders in return for recognition as a state by the Islamic world.

The two leaders, set to meet today at the White House, bring divergent policies on how to approach the Middle East conflict.

“We’ve seen the Obama administration taking a change of course than what we’ve seen in the last eight years under George W. Bush,” Mileah Kromer, professor of American Politics, said.

The process

Netanyahu’s visit to the White House will be followed by President Mubarak of Egypt and Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian National Authority.  In June, Obama will fly to Egypt where he will deliver a speech outlining his strategy for bringing peace to the Middle East and rebuilding America’s relationship with the Muslim world.

“It not only depends on our actions but the actions of the other actors in these situations,” Kromer said. “It will be successful if other countries are willing to cooperate and work with us because as we’ve seen before peace does not work if it’s a unilateral decision of the United States.”

Opinions are divided on the success of the talks with Netanyahu and other Middle Eastern political figures who are set to talk with Obama.

“Initially they’re going to agree but when they all come together as a group” negotiations will fall apart, Air Force Academy senior Shane Malkin said.

“I think he’s trying to make up for what everyone says is the Bush administration’s fault,” freshman international studies major Jacki Higgins said. “I really think we should just leave and let them do their thing, but we have so much invested in the oil over there that it won’t happen.”

Americans want a different approach

In general the American public is looking for a different kind of approach to foreign policy, one that does not involve sending soldiers over to the Middle East.

middle_east_pol_2003“Most public opinion polls right now show approval for Iraq in the low 30s with our continued occupation in Iraq,” Kromer said.  “So [Americans are] looking for a new policy, a new kind of step forward.”

It has become a lot harder to sell the American public on the idea of sending more soldiers over to the Middle East as a way of bringing peace.

“We’re seeing a shift into an isolationist kind of standpoint that we just don’t want to be involved in any sort of peace-keeping,” Kromer said.

Peace negotiations like what Obama is planning to have been successful in the past.  The Camp David Accords, between Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin in 1978 is the longest-lasting peace settlement to date.

“What we’re going to see today is the beginning of a new American initiative, that Obama is going to lead to try to persuade the people on both sides, the Palestinians and the Israelis that they don’t have a future unless they work this thing out,” Scott said.

Watch Professor Glenn Scott speak about Obama’s Middle Eastern peace initiative:


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