by Amy McLeod
President Obama will spend the next few weeks meeting with leaders from Israel,Palestine and Egypt in hopes of fostering peace in the Middle East. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will all visit Washington to discuss the prospect of peace with President Obama.
Trying to find common ground
Obama will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu today and hopes to establish some common ideas for peace in the Middle East. Netanyahu said this morning that he does not support a two-state solution, an idea that has been supported by many, including the Obama administration.
“The new Israeli government is definitely more skeptical of peace right now,” said Safia Swimelar, an Associate Professor of Political Science at Elon University. “Netanyahu said he wants a fresh start and new plans. It’s kind of ironic that now that we have a U.S. side that seems more engaged in the process, there is an Israeli side that is more skeptical toward the peace process.”
Listen to Professor Safia Swimelar talk about the peace talks.
Centuries of conflict
The conflict in the Middle East has been a problem for centuries and attempts to rectify it have been countless.
“I just finished a class called the Spirit of Israel and we talked mostly about Zionism,” said Elon student Meghan McCrystal, “and the conflict that is now present between the Israelis and Palestinians. I’d be impressed if Obama can fix it because the issues are so personal to many people and they have been around for so long.”
The tensions are primarily related to land ownership and religious differences.
“Of course the conflict between Israel and Egypt can be traced back to when Israelites were help as slaves in Egypt,” said Reverend George Shive. “And tensions rose between Israel and Palestine in 1948 when Israel was established as an independent nation on Palestinian land.”
The conflict between Egypt and Israel seems to have been resolved. Egypt and Jordan are the only two Arab states who have had peaceful relations with Israel and they are being included in these discussions as a form of mediation.
Egypt as a tool for mediation
“I wouldn’t say that they are best friends with Israel,” said Swimelar, “but they’re clearly not enemies. So they are seen as key actors in the diplomatic arrangement because they do have this ability to talk to the Israelis but also be on the side of the Palestinians given their identity.”
The mediation that Egypt’s President Mubarak could provide a forum in which both the Israeli and Palestinian parties are willing to talk.
“Something that happens a lot in Middle East peace negotiations is that a third party is brought in to help mediate,” said Paul Findle. “It’s a function of the process of mediation and when so much is at stake, especially religious or political difference, that mediation is welcomed.”
In 1979, President Jimmy Carter hosted the Israeli Prime Minister and the President of Egypt to discuss the issue of peace in the Middle East in which strides were made toward peace. The parties all signed agreements known as the Camp David Accords.
Will these talks be successful?
The success of these most recent peace talks remains to be seen.
Political Science professor Rudy Zarzar is optimistic about Obama’s efforts and believes that this is a high priority on his agenda
“He already expressed interest and support for the two state solution,” said Zarzar. “He has declared before the world that solving this problem is a matter of national interest for the United States. He already has former Senator George Mitchell sent to the Middle East to serve as a mediator between the two sides and with the Arab States. And, finally he already asked some key figures in the conflict to come to the U.S. for discussions.”
Though the new Israeli government seems less inclined to work toward the peace process at this time, there is hope that because of the power of the Obama administration. Many Israeli and Palestinian citizens are also optimistic about peace in the Middle East.
“I really think that the negotiating power and diplomatic power of the Obama administration is going to make things better,” said Swimelar.
Obama’s administration has always operated on a platform that seeks to create communication and connections with foreign nations. Obama hopes that creating peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will lead to more peaceful relations with all of the Middle East.
Listen as Obama discusses his policy for foreign affairs and the Middle East.