Friday, July 17, 2009

The Middle East chess game Obama needs to win

Financial Times, By Philip Stephens (16/7/2009) Simultaneous chess offers a useful metaphor for Barack Obama’s approach to foreign policy. The US president might have chosen to take a cautious, sequential approach to the lengthy list of global challenges: Iraq first; then Afghanistan, Pakistan and al-Qaeda; Iran next; climate change, Russia and nuclear proliferation some way down the track; the Israeli-Palestinian conflict towards the end of his term. Instead, Mr Obama has sprinted from continent to continent with the speed and confidence of a grandmaster. He has made the opening moves in almost all of the important games. In each instance, he has opted for boldness over caution, pushing out his pawns to deploy his bishops and knights at the centre of the board... For their part, Palestinians are divided between Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza. Arab leaders worry about the reaction on the street to anything that looks like a concession to Israel. After talking to senior Palestinian officials during a recent visit to Ramallah, I was not left with the impression of a leadership ready to take big risks for peace. The paradox on the Israeli side is that most people accept the logic of a two-state solution – if only because in the long term it is the only way Israel can retain its character as a Jewish and democratic state. But in voting for a government led by Mr Netanyahu, the same people have voiced profound doubts that a peace accord is possible without sacrificing security. Hamas’ control of Gaza casts a long shadow... Click here for full story