For all the anticipation over the first official meeting, coming up on Monday, between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, there’s another very important event for the MidEast peace process starting today, in Cairo, that seems to be under the radar of most of the press. But not that of the German business newspaper Handelsblatt; it has put out a commentary (Why the Palestinians cannot unite), by one Abdel Mottaleb El Husseini, a free-lance journalist, on the conclave scheduled in Egypt between representatives of the two main organizations claiming to represent Palestinian interests, namely Fatah (of the West Bank, headquartered in Ramallah) and Hamas (of Gaza). (more…)
Christian or Jew, Moslim or Shinto, the whole world’s 2008 holiday spirit has taken a severe beaten ever since right after Christmas Day itself by the still-escalating violent tit-for-tat being played out in the Gaza Strip between Israel and Hamas. The whole affair seems to be a classic case of escalating rage on both sides spiralling to some ultimate calamity, with little room to try to talk sense to either side to draw them back from the brink. Prospects for any satisfactory resolution are considerably worsened by a political vacuum where the world’s eyes would ordinarily turn for the exercise of some sort of restraint on Israel, namely Washington: at only a little over twenty days to his departure, George W. Bush utterly lacks any more credibility generally, much less on Middle East matters (warning: link leads to rude language!), while President-Elect Obama is sticking with his “one president at a time” mantra.
Could this provide an opening for the EU to try to provide some helpful intervention of its own? Maybe one last hurrah for what has turned out to be an extraordinarily activist six-month EU presidency for France and her president, Nicolas Sarkozy? That is a tempting thought, except that Sarkozy, his wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, and various other family are currently on holiday in Brazil. (They had to fly there, where it’s warm at this time of year, for an official state visit, you see. It all amounts to little more than the sort of tacking-on-a-vacation-to-the-end-of-a-company-paid-business-trip in which I wager most of the readers of this weblog have indulged at least once.) Nonetheless, Thijs Bermand and Tineke Bennema of the Dutch daily Trouw offer the proposition that the EU does have a role that it can play by virtue of the Assocition Agreement with Israel that is still pending (EU can make a difference in MidEast conflict). (more…)