Friday, December 26, 2008

Is there Middle East hope on the horizon?

Reading various and sundry news sources over the past few days, I've run across some ideas I hadn't considered. There are some changes on the horizon which actually may bring some hope of positive change in the Middle East.

What are these changes, you ask?

Set down your coffee cup. I don't want you spitting hot beverages all over your PC.

The Clintons are going to be running US foreign policy.

I'll give you a moment to digest that one. Feel free to power up your defibrillator. Or dab the laugh-induced tears from your eyes. Whatever you feel necessary.

Yes, that's right. Hill will be driving the Dept of State, with Bill as her trusty first mate, for the foreseeable future. And this fact gives me hope for real, positive change for Israel and their neighbors.

Let's step into the WayBack Machine for a moment and revist the late 90s. The world was a pretty spiffy place, all things being equal. No real wars to speak of. Some terrorism, but nothing to speak of in the Western world. The Irish were all lovey-dovey, Russia seemed to be heading towards some sort of democracy, Bosnia had quieted down, the Chinese were focusing inward, and the Palestinians and Israelis were thiiiiissssss close to a workable two-state agreement.

Bill Clinton fostered a great deal of this rosy picture. He was instrumental in Ireland. You can argue about his effectiveness and wisdom in Bosnia, but the fact remains it cooled off relatively rapidly. The Russians certainly had their own issues to settle, with organized crime and corruption rampant, but the jury was out on Putin, and the Kremlin seemed interested in joining the family of nations, and Clinton did nothing to dissuade them from the idea. What impact Clinton had on terrorism and China can be debated, but the sitting US President gets to take credit for anything positive happening on his watch.

And what about the diplomacy between the Barak government and Arafat? It's difficult to remember those days clearly, since so much violence has occurred since, but those were heady times indeed. The idea of a two-state solution was threatening to become reality. Israel had loosened the grip on the occupied territories, the Palestinian economy was literally booming, the West was falling all over themselves to fork over aid and assistance of every description. No rocks or bullets were flying, no bombers were blowing themselves to pieces.

The negotiations were literally down to the street level. The worker bees on both sides were pouring over the Jerusalem MAPSCO, drawing the new border.

It was a close as we have EVER come to a real, workable, implementable compromise.

Clinton got it to that point.

If it weren't for Arafat, it would have worked.

So, now, eight years later, Arafat is worm food. Hamas may be worse in a lot of ways, but they also aren't duplicitous, grandstanding liars who are completely disassociated from the people they claim to represent like Arafat was (at least, I think they're not). And Bill knows this issue as well as any American politician/diplomat has ever known it.

Clinton knows how close he came to greatness. Argue his legacy all you like, if he had pulled off a solution in the Middle East, he would have gone down as one of the all-timers, up there with Jefferson, Lincoln, those Roosevelt boys, you name it. Hell, he would have RETIRED the Nobel Prize.

And now? He, and the little missus (THERE'S an image for you!), gets a do-over.

While Hillary may be looking towards the White House someday in the future, Bill is working for the history books. He's got a real opportunity to burnish his long-term reputation to the shiniest of shiny bright-bright. She has the opportunity to be mentioned in the same breath as Kissinger, and probably get a few nice pieces of hardware for the mantel while she's at it. He knows the issue. There is as much at stake as ever. Both Israel and the Palestinians are motivated to achieve some sort of solution, although I admit at the moment the respective ideas of that solution don't look very much like each other. Everybody can win here, and the Clintons can become legends of humanity.

There's some Holiday optimism for you!

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