It appears President-elect Obama is flirting with the 2002 pan-Arab peace plan as a way to address the stalemate in the Middle East.
Back in 2002, When I was listening to the Arab peace plan as proposed by the King of Saudi Arabia, I remember having mixed feelings. The plan, branded as “historic”, proposed peace with Israel in return for a return to the 1967 borders. The plan sounded too much like something the Arabs would say to deflect accusations of inaction, or perhaps a way of putting the huge ball in Israel’s court to offload the burden of peacemaking on the rest of the world. I never really took it seriously.
But on the other hand, the plan makes sense and in my opinion is the only way to make a historic step forward. The problem is that it steps on too many toes: The Iranians (and their proxies) won’t sit idly by and watch their pretext to armed-resistance go away. The Syrians won’t just let go of their regional influence (which is based on its ability to make trouble), and The Israeli religious right won’t just “allow” Jerusalem to be divided and the Golan to break free.
As many observers have noted, peace in the Middle East can only move forward when a combination of factors take place simultaneously:
1- A committed American administration willing to bang heads together
2- An Israeli leadership with a mandate and willingness for peace,
3- A weakened “axis of evil”.
If this article is correct, we might have all the three happening at the same time: Mr. Obama would be willing to take the dive, Tsivi Livni -if with any luck she gets elected- supports the plan, Iran is hurting from low oil prices and Russia (which has taken to propping up Syria and Iran to spite Bush’s America) would be brought in with a quid-pro-quo involving an American concession regarding the missiles shield in Eastern Europe in return for more pressure on Iran and Syria.
As with many other plans by Mr. Obama, the one involving peace in the Middle East requires a healthy dose of “hope”.