Monday, January 26, 2009


President Barack Obama's appointment of former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell as Special Envoy to the Middle East is to be applauded. Senator Mitchell is an even handed, shrewd negotiator. He was the main architect of peace in Northern Ireland, which was probably as difficult an assignment as the Middle East if not more due to the length of that dispute. If anyone can bring peace to the Middle East, Senator Mitchell can, especially with the full backing of President Obama.

Irrespective of Israel's recent misguided foray into Gaza, its Government and leading political parties are talking reality after a long time. For the first time its Prime & Foreign Ministers seem to acquiesce the Saudi monarch's peace formula floated in 2002.

Apart from other obstacles, the disarray of Palestinian political leadership will pose a major problem. Mahmoud Abbas, the President of Palestinian Authority is no longer in a position to speak for all Palestinians as he has no writ over Gaza. He is also looked upon by most Palestinians as a U.S./Israeli plant, hence he lacks credibility. The leadership of Hamas has no writ over the West Bank, so they cannot speak for all of Palestine either.

A new leadership needs to emerge amongst the Palestinians, but much of their future leaders languish in Israeli prisons. One Palestinian leader who can command respect in the West Bank and Gaza alike is MARWAN BARGHOUTI and Israel knows it too. Despite incarceration, Barghouti has been instrumental in starting an education program amongst Palestinian prisoners in Israel. He is also responsible for starting a behind the scenes peace movement. Having split from Fatah, he has started his own Political Party - Al-Mustaqbal - the Future. In 2004 his announcement to run for President of Palestinian Authority ran chills down Fatah's leaders and they had to plead with him to withdraw.

Barghouti is possibly the one leader who can unite and speak for all Palestinians and negotiate with Israel a lasting and a permanent settlement. In time, he can also reduce political influence of Hamas in Gaza. Israel needs to release him and many other Palestinians leaders who are languishing in their prisons for no reason except that they oppose Israeli occupation. I hope one of first tasks Senator Mitchell will do, is ask Israel to release him and other Palestinian leaders immediately.

Soon thereafter Palestinian Authority needs to hold general elections in the West Bank & Gaza so a new leadership can emerge through a popular mandate. This is essential if the United States, Israel and Arab countries want a credible Palestinian peace partner. Meanwhile Israel should open all check points to Gaza, so food and fuel can flow again. Freezing the checkpoints has led to digging of numerous tunnels from Gaza to Egypt. If Israel is seeking a long term settlement, it must show compassion and not restrict humanitarian supplies.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia's peace plan calls for a complete Israeli withdrawal from territories captured in the 1967 i.e all of the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. In return, Israel will not only get recognition from all Arab countries but will have full trading rights with them. This means moving out from the settlements in the West Bank and giving up East Jerusalem. This could pose some political problems for the Israeli Government from right wingers, but Israel has to decide whether it wants to keep fighting for another 60 years or coexist peacefully with a fully empowered Palestinian State next door.

In return, the Palestinians will have to make permanent peace with Israel and forgo all other claims. The refugees expelled from what is now Israel will have to give up their claims in exchange for land in the West Bank.

A great deal of time has been lost due to George W. Bush's foolish policies in the Middle East over the last eight years. However, it is still not too late and if the United States becomes an honest broker, peace in the Middle East can be achieved sooner than most people think.


Anonymous said...

Hello. I like what you've written here. I've never heard of that man in custody in Israel. Do you have any more info on him? Could you post some links?
Please forgive me for not doing the leg work, or, if you have posted some links and I somehow missed them.
I'm going to bookmark your blog.
Thank You for your efforts.
This is such a complex issue. And I whole heartily agree. Mitchell can pull this off.
He did succeed in N Ireland. And it's been peacefull there ever since.( I think)

Anonymous said...

I wasn't aware that the King of Saudi Arabia negotiated that deal.
It seems to me, that all is needed is a middleman and some honest effort. That, and the desire for peace. Surely the majority of the Palestinians wish for peace. They have to be sick and tired of living in the conditions that they've been living in for the last 30-40 years.
I also have to say the same for the Israeli's.
Although, sadly, for some reason, I don't think the majority of the Israeli's want peace yet.
Way too much hatred.
From both sides.

Ajaz Haque said...

Anonymous, thank you for your comments. I am afraid I am not blog savvy yet, so I didn't know how to backlink Marwan Barghouti's Wikepedia page. Here is a link, I hope it gives you and others reading this blog info on the man:

I think enough Israelis and most Palestinians are sick of the fighting, death and destruction. There are extreme right groups in Israel who do not want to give up land or see the Palestinian State at any cost. However, the good news is that a recent opinion poll in Israel found over 60% wanting to make peace in exchange for land. This has to be very encouraging.

Mike's Common Sense said...

I agree that sending George Mitchell to help broker a peace deal in the Middle East is a smart move on Obama's part, as is spending Rhichard Holbrook to work in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
I also agree that the Palestinians need new leadership, someone fresh and practical who's interest is in a true and lasting peace between Palestine and Israel.
If as you say Marwan Barghouti is the man for the job, then I hope that the leaders of the negotiations will act on that fact.
Middle East peace in our life time will be a true miracle. Let's pray that it comes about.

Ajaz Haque said...

Marwan Barghouti could have succeeded Yasser Arafat, but he was not week and compliant like Mahmoud Abbas so he did not fit in with the Bush/Sharon agenda. He is one of the new dynamic Palestinian leaders who can unite the Palestinians in West Bank & Gaza to a common goal of a Palestinian State existing peacefully side by side with Israel.

Peace in Middle East won't be easy, but with an earnest effort, it is achievable.

Anonymous said...

Well, if the Irish can do it........

Lets hope for the best.
I've been watching this thing unfold my whole adult life.
And I'm sick of it.
ps,I'm Irish.
Nice blog you have here. Keep it up. Thank You.

Ajaz Haque said...

Thank you for your kind remarks.
I wrote to Senator Mitchell wishing him well in his efforts to secure peace in the Middle East and I sent him a copy of this post. It was nice to hear back from the Senator by way of a personal note (although brief) rather than one prepared by his staff.