January 25th, 2009
01:00 PM ET
9 months ago

Can Obama broker Middle East peace?

Palestinians sit next to Israeli-bombed buildings in Rafah, in the Gaza Strip.
Palestinians sit next to Israeli-bombed buildings in Rafah, in the Gaza Strip.

CAIRO, Egypt (TIME) - President Barack Obama got off to a good start last week where the Middle East is concerned, using his first full day on the the job to phone four key regional leaders to discuss peacemaking plans, then following that up on Thursday by announcing the appointment of former Sen. George Mitchell — widely respected for his work in brokering peace in Northern Ireland and previous mediation efforts in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — as the U.S. special envoy to the Middle East.

Yet, as someone who has reported on the countless peace conferences, U.S. peace plans and peace missions by secretaries of state and special envoys since President Ronald Reagan was in office — and also documented the rage and exasperation at America that the issue has caused throughout the Arab world — I have some advice for President Obama: Achieving peace will take more than simply reinvigorating diplomacy, and relinquishing the Bush Administration's preference for the use of force to address the region's problems. To succeed, Obama needs a new Middle East policy, one that genuinely addresses the needs, interests and aspirations of the region itself.

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Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • Middle East
soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. Danny in Chicago

    Whenever we get a new president in Office this question comes up. Why is the United States responsible for the peace of the middle east? I'm so sick of us investing so much of our time and resources into this lost cause. I know it's complicated and we are tied into it...yes, I know, but why don't we focus on a us a bit, eh? I don't know if you've noticed, but we're having some problems of our own lately. Let's just focus here and let them kill each other. They are going to do that anyways, right? Perhaps that's insensitive, but then again.....the east is doing this to themselves, and then they blame us for everything.

    And one more thing......this last attack on the Palestinians was so obviously done on OUR election cycle it makes me sick. I mean, who DIDN'T think that this was going to happen after November and end before Jan. 20th?? Anybody...anybody???

    The Middle East has become so predictable in its conflicts.......

    Are we in the 21st century or the middle ages????

    Religion is the cause of all our conflicts.......not God....but RELIGION.

    Think about it......

    January 25, 2009 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  2. Charlie in Maine

    Maybe not but he has a better chance than anyone I can think of, Sending George Mitchell BRIALLANT.

    First 100 hours- goin strong.

    January 25, 2009 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  3. CLINTON

    Can Obama broker Middle East peace? YES WITH CLINTON AS AMERICA'S SECRETARY OF STATE

    January 25, 2009 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  4. J.C.

    I don't think anybody can ever broker any peace deal between any two groups, unless he or she starts to treat them equally. As long as there is injustice, there will be no peace.

    January 25, 2009 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  5. linda from South Dakota

    bush created a lot of haterd in the middle east countries and wasnt willin to talk,, it had to be his way or no way,, but obama will work rightfully so,, in this case,, and the people there respect him as president,,, in time we wil see new policies and peace,,, give it time,,,

    January 25, 2009 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  6. bsmith171

    sure, he can aprt the red sea, also.

    c'mon obama is a politician awith no record of accomplishment.

    wants panetta as CIA chief.

    January 25, 2009 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  7. facts are facts

    A country can't take actions that kill family and friends of hundreds of thousands of people and expect there won't be hate and thoughts of retaliation for probably at least the entire next generation.

    All any reasonable person has to do and stop and think how they would feel if they had been one of these types of people in one of these countries and had suffered this type of anguish.

    When I look at it this way it just doesn't look to me like either Israel or the U.S. is going to be forgiven any time soon. Hopefully I'm wrong but I doubt it.

    January 25, 2009 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  8. Meka

    President Obama, will definitely be a "Equal Broker"!

    January 25, 2009 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  9. Rick Roberts

    Scott, what you say is true, BUT isn't that why Obama is President? He has been ahead of everyone else in thinking things through. I will bet that he already knows that"business as usual" will not worlk. Hell if it did, then "W" would look like a genius, instead of the moron he is. Let's let Obama do his thing, then evaluate the results. Every newsman/woman, so far has not been able to anticipate Obama's next move. Is it because he is smarter than the press???? I really don't know, but so far he is smarter than me. (THAT"S not hard)

    January 25, 2009 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  10. The Truth

    Obama couldn't broker his way out of a paper bag.

    January 25, 2009 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  11. Flo

    He has a better shot at it then any other president. He has a clear understanding of all parties and will sit down to lay out a plan neither would turn down unless the whole peace talk is a cover(farce) for Isreal to continue the fighting and push the Palestinians out. 60 years of fighting who wouldn't want peace...........they would really have to be crazy not to sit and seriously talk about negotiating.

    January 25, 2009 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  12. MorningStar

    No and no!

    You cannot impose peace on people who don't want peace. The people in the Middle East don't want peace. Since the Carter administration, American tax payers have been wasting money and efforts to make peace in that region. So I say let them fight, let them kill each other until one day, they will come to their senses. Those people in general are not peace smart; they live in ever ending circle of violence…

    January 25, 2009 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  13. Jorgor Barrie

    Lasting Peace in the Middle East (in particular between Plastinians and Israelis) can only be realised when American Diplomacy and Mediation are 100% Genuine, Sincere and Impartial. Anything short of these will never yield lasting peace.

    I pray and hope that President Obama and Secretary Clinton and their Envoy George Mitchell will have the guts to confront Israel and tell her the HARD FACTS and PAINFUL TRUTH. If they do, I am absolutely sure the Obama administeration will be able to broker a lasting peace in the Middle East and, the US will be loved, respected and admired by virtually all Arabs and Muslims in the world, even perhaps by the vast majority of Al Qaida.

    January 25, 2009 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  14. Gary

    It is not the US President's responsibility to broker a Middle East deal, there a people on both sides who will not give an inch even if it means continued violence. This situation will only waste the president's time and our money. Meanwhile there are people around the world in Asia, Africa and South America who would love our help solving their problems and would do so peacefully. Obama should continue to support our ally Isreal against terrorism and continue to encourage every country in the middle east to develop democracies committed to human rights, with equal rights for all people (men and women) of all religions. We need to encourage them to think about economic development that builds things instead terrorism that destroys things. We should emphasize this way of thinking to our non-friends (Iran and Syria) as well as our friends (Saudia arabia, Jordan and Iraq).

    January 25, 2009 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  15. Chris

    Put it this way... if Obama somehow manages to broker a lasting peace in the Middle East (esp. between Israel and the Palestinians), that alone will make him one of the best U.S. presidents.

    January 25, 2009 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  16. Of course not.....

    you can't be a woos and negotiate because no one will take you seriously--closing Guantanamo against the wishes of the majority of Americans (see Gallup poll) and ending enhanced interrogation techniques sends a clear message to Al Qaeda that Obama is weak and therefore can be trifled with.

    January 25, 2009 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  17. ran

    Yes he can and If Bush had 911 never would have happened.

    January 25, 2009 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  18. chris

    In the former Yugoslavia the sebs and Croats are livivng in peace even though there is more blood and hatred over there then in the Isreali and Palestinian conflict.The Croats pushed the serbs out of Croatia and Bosnia (which was part of Croatia) America stepped in
    and gave part of Bosnia to the serbs (the terrorist and war criminals who were pordoned by America but we didn;t pordon the victoms).
    The Muslims got one third of Bosnia (part of Croatia) and the Croats dot less than one third.Isreal must be forced to give up land and lots of it to the Palestinians. But Isreal controls American media and army so there no chance of peace.Isreal wants more than just the west bank they want Jordon,Syria and so on.

    January 25, 2009 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  19. daniel cabrera

    What?, – he cannot impose peace? WHAT !? Is he or not the 'MEESIANIC MAGIC ONE' with super-powers almost like God?

    Well....he-he-he that is the notion of all his still-supporters ( they are going down in number , you know? )

    I do not know,...look for yourself ;

    AND SO , THE WAR AGAINST TERROR IS OVER !

    So, we do not have ways to investigate or adquire info from terrorist because the nice aproach by Pres Obama,….ok.
    I do expect that after the inminet impending attack that is about to strike us ( BECAUSE THOSE GUYS ARE NOT STOPING , OK? ), Obama will ask the terrorist ( their leaders or the already in custody foes),… something like this;

    "…..er,…would you gentlemen, tell us when your next strike is going to be,….we will really appreciate you stop your bombing to the people of the free world,….what you say?,….can we have some tea or coffee?,….we have good wine too,…and if you llike and in addition we do have nice shows at Radio City Music Hall in New York City,…we can take you there for entertainment…"

    So , you see ,the idea is that if we are nice to them, they will never strike again,….sounds good to you? I do reserve my opinion on this one.

    sleep well.
    Daniel Cabrera
    Merrillville, Indiana

    January 25, 2009 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  20. Mark

    Unfortunately there will never be peace in the MI. Hamas doctrine is based on the destruction of the Jewish state. The PA is trying to make peace just to overthrow the Jews and make it one state and Israel wants peace but not at the expense of being destroyed or voted out of office.

    January 25, 2009 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  21. Henry

    Civilized people are dying to live. Muslim fanatics are living to die! (For what? 72 virgins in heaven?) And what's most disgusting is that they teach their little kids to become suicide bombers! How sick it that?

    Until this religious madness is cured by sanity, there will always be hatred and killing, against which civilized people will have to protect themselves. Have we forgotten the Muslim fanatics that killed 3,000 Americans on 9/11?

    January 25, 2009 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  22. kerry d

    if obama brings about peace in the middle east then he is the messiah. anybody want to place a bet he is not? i, for one, think he will blow out like a birthday candle on this matter. the leaders in the middle east have no desire for peace. peace would take money and power out of the hands of the corrupt so-called leaders of the palestinians.

    January 25, 2009 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  23. In Moderation in GA

    I agree with Morning Star. Like the old saying, "you can lead a horse to the water but you can't make him drink". If the governments in the Middle East wanted peace they would do it. If the people in the Middle East wanted peace they would change their governments.

    January 25, 2009 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  24. steve r.

    These countries have been fighting for hundreds of years and some say the conflicts will never end. If anyone can bring peace or at least a mutual understanding it is President Obama and SOS Clinton. We can no longer be bullies with our arms because there will always be resistance and hate towards us. Iraq is is the perfect example of how the world hates us now because of that unwanted war. ( NO WMD ) A safe pull out of Iraq ASAP will show the world that we have new leadership at hand that wants to solve problems in the world, not create them. It's a steep hill to climb, but we can always pray for moving in the right direction.

    January 25, 2009 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  25. Henry

    Civilized people are dying to live. Fanatic Muslims are living to die. Therein lies the rub!

    January 25, 2009 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |