By Kristin Oto, Contributor
The buzz about the mediating role of the U.S. in the Middle East and the prevailing strategies for brokering peace is ever present in Washington, as the Bush Administration approaches the end of its term. An interesting six months lies ahead; we will see where the Bush Administration will leave off and where the next Administration will begin.
Presently, there is a lot of mediating taking place in the Middle East by other countries like Turkey, Germany, and Egypt for short-term solutions, but the U.S. has remained relatively passive in this regard. Germany recently umpired a deal between Israel and Hezbollah (an identified terrorist organization) to swap an Israeli-captured Lebanese gunman for the bodies of Hezbollah-captured Israelis. A ceasefire, albeit a fragile one, between Hamas and Israel was mediated by Egypt. But with all the so-called progress, there are still so many threats of violence on other fronts.
Iran and Israel are on the brink of hostility, fighting in Gaza as a result of ceasefire violations on both sides, and sanctions against Iran by the European Union (EU). And even the mediation that did take place shows signs of deteriorating in the near future. The danger of the swap between Israel and Hezbollah is that it gives Hezbollah more reason to think that they hold power. The ceasefire between Hamas and Israel is extremely fragile and there have already been violations on both sides. The mere band-aids for temporary relief: intentional short-term way out or failure of a long-term solution? Some say the recent Israeli diplomacy (negotiations with Syria, ceasefire with Hamas, and dialogue with Lebanon) is sheer happenstance, not a surge of prudence or change in policy.
It is commonly believed that while other countries attempt to mediate in the Middle East, nothing lasting will happen without U.S. support because of how influential the US is in the world. Some argue that the mediations are not lasting because they are lacking the “U.S. stamp of approval”. The U.S. against any deal will not sustain a solution. ‘The strong do what they want, and the weak do what they must’, is an unnerving statement, but seems to be the apparent deduction, as none of the recent resolutions in the Middle East mediated by other countries have had a long-term effect. But with the current Administration and its timetable, pushing anything is irresponsible.
There is certainly a tendency to see the problems in the situation, and it is very easy to see how things can get worse, but pessimism can turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Many at this point toss up their arms in exasperation, as there does not yet appear to be a light at the end of this tunnel. Preparing for the worst can often cause alarm and escalate tensions. On the other hand, some have suggested that the Bush Administration could “negotiate with Iran and it could be part of the Bush Legacy”. This is also not profitable thinking because resolving the conflict in the Middle East is a labyrinth, and for the Bush Administration to pursue anything would be irresponsible and unrealistic on its timetable.