Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Khaleej Times: Peace in the Middle East if Israel and the US Want it


Khaleej Times Online, Dec 30, 2008

What next in Gaza? After its devastating bombing campaign targeting Gaza that has killed more than 300 Palestinians, Israel is now threatening a full-scale invasion of the Strip.

Israeli tanks are said to be amassing along the border for a ground assault on the Palestinian territory.

Israel is playing with fire and its actions are certain to have dangerous consequences not only for the Middle East but the world at large. If the angry demonstrations across the world are anything to go by, the effects of this wave of Israeli atrocities against a besieged population will be felt long after the curtain has come down on the current campaign.

This is why all those watching this catastrophe unfold in Gaza in silent indifference have to stir out of their stupor to check Israel. If they do not act — and act fast — to put out the blaze raging in Palestinian territories, they will all soon feel its heat no matter where they are.

As British Foreign Secretary David Miliband warned yesterday, the attacks on Gaza could radicalise many more people around the world. We are now paying a terrible price for the slow and faltering pace of Middle East peace negotiations over the past many years, Miliband told BBC yesterday. Indeed, the current carnage in Gaza could have been avoided if the international community had seriously pursued the Middle East peace process. Even now if the world community moves decisively, it could save many more innocent lives in Gaza and elsewhere.

First and foremost, Israel must be asked to stop its bombardment of Gaza immediately and open the Strip for urgent humanitarian relief and badly needed essential supplies and medicines.

Thanks to years of blockade, Gaza’s hospitals have no medicines or even first aid to deal with the deluge of critically injured patients.

Secondly, the international community has to take effective steps and do everything to push for urgent revival of the Palestine-Israel peace process. The world has to push for a real and meaningful breakthrough.

It goes without saying that the United States stands to play a crucial role in any such exercise thanks to its proximity to Israel as well as its close ties with the Arabs. Besides, as the reigning superpower, it has huge stakes in the Middle East.

The incoming administration of Barack Obama has been strangely silent on the attacks on Gaza. But it cannot maintain its silence for long. If Obama wants genuine peace in the Middle East, as he claimed he did during his presidential campaign, he will have to convince Israel to make real peace with the Arabs and give the Palestinians what rightfully belongs to them. The Arabs have already offered peace to Israel by way of the Arab plan they unveiled at the Beirut Arab League summit in 2002. The ball is now in Israel’s court. Let’s face it: There

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