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Inside the Middle East
September 14, 2010
Posted: 1418 GMT
Press Corps in Sharm al-Shaikh

Press Corps in Sharm al-Shaikh

Ben Wedeman sends us this photo of the assembled press corps in Sharm al-Shaikh, Egypt waiting for the press conference of the United State's Middle East envoy George Mitchell to begin. Ben reports that everyone did rise from their slumber when the news conference started. You can read about Mitchell's comments about the second round of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians here.

Filed under: General •George Mitchell •Israel •Palestinians •U.S.


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January 27, 2009
Posted: 1530 GMT

obama1

Listening to President barack Obama's interview on satellite news channel Al-Arabya, I was reminded of something Hisham Melhem – the man who conducted the one-on-one – told me a few weeks: "It is going to be very difficult for Mideast leaders to demonize someone whose full name is Barack Hussein Obama."

Indeed, the tone was conciliatory and President Obama made sure to mention the fact that he'd lived in a Muslim country and that members of his family are Muslim. A hand extended to the region. An "I understand you" from the Commander-in-Chief.

Though in recent polls, a majority of people in the Mideast do not believe anything will change with an Obama presidency, could a softer tone alone be a game-changer?

After eight years of a Bush presidency and an Iraq war that has made virulent anti-Americanism the norm in the Arab world, Barack Obama's statement that he has advised his Mideast envoy George Mitchell to "start by listening, because all too often the United States starts by dictating" is a rhetorical leap that marks a clean break with the past.

But here is the wider question: how to achieve true, lasting peace, without involving all actors of the Mideast tragedy in the discussions?

Mister Obama's peace envoy is in the region right now speaking with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Egyptian and Israeli leaders, but will not stop in Syria and will not meet Hamas officials.

The issue here is not whether Hamas is legitimate or popular, but how any deal can hold as a result of negotiations conducted without them.

Since Egypt has acted as a mediator between Israel and Hamas in past agreements, it's not inconceivable that messages will somehow be relayed to the group through Cairo.

Would this be like trying to achieve peace in Northern Ireland by not involving the IRA's political wing? It's a question worth asking.

Meanwhile, the process will be slow: president Obama himself has lowered expectations ("it's going to be difficult",) violence is flaring up again in gaza and nothing tangible is expected to happen before Israelis select a new Prime Minister as a result of elections next month.

What are your thoughts on President Obama's interview on Al Arabya?

Thanks to all for commenting!

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Filed under: George Mitchell •Hamas •Obama


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January 22, 2009
Posted: 1455 GMT

mitchell

The Obama administration has named former American senator George Mitchell to be special envoy to the Middle East, sources told CNN.

Internationally, Mitchell is best known for his work as the man who helped broker an agreement between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland, a dispute, at times,  just as bitter as the one between Israelis and Palestinians.

Mitchell served as a Mideast envoy for the Bush administration, authoring a 2001 report that called for a halt to Israeli settlements and greater Palestinian efforts to crack down on terror.

What do you think of the Mitchell nomination?

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Filed under: George Mitchell •Obama


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