January 25th, 2009
01:00 PM ET
3 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