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  Global Views
How to Make Friends and Influence People
By Dr. Terry Lacey
Special Correspondent
US envoy George Mitchell

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to weeks of US pressure by finally making a keynote policy speech endorsing a Palestinian state but with so many strings attached that an Indonesian diplomat publicly asserted the Palestinian right to resist oppression by armed struggle.

So should we conclude that the speech was successful?

US envoy George Mitchell is driving preliminary negotiations forward, and trying to pull in Syria. Clearly the Obama administration will revive the 2003 road map and build on the 2007 Annapolis conference, despite the poor starting point and obstacles.

This has the Israelis worried. Repeated Israeli insistence Jerusalem must remain undivided is a sure sign they know they must share it. At least this has their undivided attention.

The Saudis have reportedly advised President Obama to get on with it, even if it takes more sticks than carrots. Why should the Israelis get all the carrots, while the Palestinians get all the sticks?

The Saudis reflect global opinion, increasingly fed up with the intracticability and destabilizing effect of the Israel-Palestine dispute, and its decreasing centrality, in a world preoccupied with urgent problems.

The main obstacles remain how to stop new Israeli settlements and rein in existing ones, and Palestinian reunification, via reconciliation talks, elections and more popular leaders with stronger local roots, not representing the old exiled elite and not tainted by faction-fighting.

Although President Ahmadinejad of Iran has been re-elected, a substantial and growing minority of Iranians are tired of religious conservatives, their economic incompetence and juvenile Presidential antics. So he has more support and more opposition, which appears to defy mathematics. It means he is weaker, but may attempt to look stronger.

But with a million Iranians on the streets wanting to throw their own President in the sea, there is less focus on throwing Israel in it with him.

As with Netanyahu, every time Ahmadinejad makes a speech for his home supporters, he undermines national credibility at international level.

Netanyahu did a U turn on the Palestinian state he has opposed, but in the words of Ary Hermawan of The Jakarta Post "on conditions the future Palestinian state would not have an army and would recognize Israel as a Jewish State." (16.06.09).

Indonesian Foreign Office spokesperson, Teuku Faizasyah questioned "the implications of Israel´s request that Palestinians recognize the Jewishness of Israel,"

"Does it mean the Palestinian refugees will be denied their rights to return to their homeland and non-Jewish people will not be allowed to live in Israel?"

Mohammed Assadi, writing from Ramallah, reported Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said the call to recognize Israel as a Jewish state "increases the complexity of the matter and aborts the chance for peace." (Jakarta Post 16.06.09).

Teuku Faizasyah was also quoted as saying,

"The Palestinians have the right to fight against oppression by any means, including the use of weapons." (Jakarta Post 16.06.09).

This is from the Foreign Office of a moderate Muslim majority nation, frustrated by contradictions and lack of clear progress.

The Boston Globe highlighted the absurdity of the Israeli request for "the public, binding and sincere Palestinian recognition of Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people." (Jakarta Post 18.06.09).

It is up to Israelis to define the future of Israel as a democratic state or a Jewish state, or whatever combination, just as Iran decides how much it's a democracy or a theocracy.

When the Israelis can get their own citizens and perhaps the Jewish diaspora to agree on the future character of the State of Israel, then they can convene a Middle East consultation on the nature (and limitations) of states, present and future, and decide to help form a Middle East regional economic and political union, and join the modern world.

Then Israel and the Arab states can fight each other with regulations on the sizes of bananas, like the EU.

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Dr. Terry Lacey, who serves as a special correspondent for The Seoul Times, is a development economist. He writes from Jakarta on modernization in the Muslim world, investment and trade relations with the EU and Islamic banking.






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