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President Obama has come a long way back, on the road for peace in the Middle East. It has been two steps forward and four steps backward. He got an enthusiastic welcome at his arrival at the international stage with hope and confidence that a new era has come. The Nobel Peace Award for him although surprising for everyone (only, the people deciding about the award had thought about it) found few critics. There was an air of excitement about the things to follow. Obama's views on peace, human rights and dignity, equality and an equitable World Order made him a role model for the People working and aspiring for these causes. The change, he successfully sold to the American People looked inevitable at the international level as well. If the planet's most powerful  man  says something,  he must be   meaning that, they all thought.  However, what did, actually happen and why, that is a separate story.

 

It would be worthwhile to trace Obama's thoughts and actions through his speeches at the international level for analyzing the reasons that brought about the change in his own

Thinking instead of the change he promised to the world. In his famous address at Cairo on 4th of June, 2009 President Obama after tracing the Arab-Israel conflict had this to say:

 “ For decades, there has been a stalemate: two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. It is easy to point fingers - for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought by Israel's founding, and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history from within its borders as well as beyond. But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: the only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security.

That is in Israel's interest, Palestine's interest, America's interest, and the world's interest. That is why I intend to personally pursue this outcome with all the patience that the task requires. The obligations that the parties have agreed to under the Road Map are clear. For peace to come, it is time for them - and all of us - to live up to our responsibilities.

Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build. The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people. Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have responsibilities. To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, and to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, and recognize Israel's right to exist.

At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel's right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine's. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop”.

The message President Obama delivered to both Israel and Palestinians was to forget their tragic past and instead of repeating it, move to create two states side-by-side recognizing each other's right to exist. He stated in clear terms, that United States consider continued Israeli settlements as illegal.

In his first speech as president Of the United States at the UN General Assembly in 2009 he stated in unambiguous terms his charter for the human community by declaring:

 “Now, like all of you, my responsibility is to act in the interest of my nation and my people, and I will never apologize for defending those interests. But it is my deeply held belief that in the year 2009 -- more than at any point in human history -- the interests of nations and peoples are shared. The religious convictions that we hold in our hearts can forge new bonds among people, or they can tear us apart. The technology we harness can light the path to peace, or forever darken it. The energy we use can sustain our planet, or destroy it. What happens to the hope of a single child -- anywhere -- can enrich our world, or impoverish it.

In this hall, we come from many places, but we share a common future. No longer do we have the luxury of indulging our differences to the exclusion of the work that we must do together. I have carried this message from London to Ankara; from Port of Spain to Moscow; from Accra to Cairo; and it is what I will speak about today -- because the time has come for the world to move in a new direction. We must embrace a new era of engagement based on mutual interest and mutual respect, and our work must begin now.

We know the future will be forged by deeds and not simply words. Speeches alone will not solve our problems -- it will take persistent action. For those who question the character and cause of my nation, I ask you to look at the concrete actions we have taken in just nine months.

On my first day in office, I prohibited -- without exception or equivocation -- the use of torture by the United States of America.  I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed, and we are doing the hard work of forging a framework to combat extremism within the rule of law. Every nation must know: America will live its values, and we will lead by example.

This body was founded on the belief that the nations of the world could solve their problems together. Franklin Roosevelt, who died before he could see his vision for this institution become a reality, put it this way -- and I quote: "The structure of world peace cannot be the work of one man, or one party, or one nation…. It cannot be a peace of large nations -- or of small nations. It must be a peace which rests on the cooperative effort of the whole world."

The cooperative effort of the whole world. Those words ring even more true today, when it is not simply peace, but our very health and prosperity that we hold in common.

In an era when our destiny is shared, power is no longer a zero-sum game. No one nation can or should try to dominate another nation. No world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will succeed. No balance of power among nations will hold. The traditional divisions between nations of the South and the North make no sense in an interconnected world; nor do alignments of nations rooted in the cleavages of a long-gone Cold War.

The time has come to realize that the old habits, the old arguments, are irrelevant to the challenges faced by our people. They lead nations to act in opposition to the very goals that they claim to pursue -- and to vote, often in this body, against the interests of their own people. They build up walls between us and the future that our people seek, and the time has come for those walls to come down. Together, we must build new coalitions that bridge old divides -- coalitions of different faiths and creeds; of north and south, east, west, black, white, and brown.

The choice is ours. We can be remembered as a generation that chose to drag the arguments of the 20th century into the 21st; that put off hard choices, refused to look ahead, failed to keep pace because we defined ourselves by what we were against instead of what we were for. Or we can be a generation that chooses to see the shoreline beyond the rough waters ahead; that comes together to serve the common interests of human beings, and finally gives meaning to the promise embedded in the name given to this institution: the United Nations.

I will also continue to seek a just and lasting peace between Israel, Palestine, and the Arab world. We will continue to work on that issue. Yesterday, I had a constructive meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas. We have made some progress. Palestinians have strengthened their efforts on security. Israelis have facilitated greater freedom of movement for the Palestinians. As a result of these efforts on both sides, the economy in the West Bank has begun to grow. But more progress is needed. We continue to call on Palestinians to end incitement against Israel, and we continue to emphasize that America does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements”.

The words he spoke, and the spirit behind the words arose the audience to acclaim the arrival of a messiah. The people the world over heaved a sigh of relief that at last the time they have waited for long has arrived. Here, was a leader destined to change the course of history and bring peace and prosperity to the world afflicted by violence, inequity, inequality and ruled by the principle of "Might is Right". The announcement about closure of Guantanamo Bay highlighted Obama's unequivocal attachment to law, and values of humanity. His mention of a shared destiny, quoting Franklin Roosevelt on United Nation's vision showed his belief in an equitable world order and exhibited his great vision of peace and equality. His reference to Arab-Israel conflict was, an unbiased statement of intent and drew positive comments.

In the 2010s session of the UNO General assembly President Obama after recounting the history of the Arab- Israel conflict had this to say “

“Last year, I pledged my best efforts to support the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security, as part of a comprehensive peace between Israel and all of its neighbors. We have travelled a winding road over the last twelve months, with few peaks and many valleys. But this month, I am pleased that we have pursued direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians in Washington, Sharm el-Sheikh and Jerusalem.

Now, many are pessimistic about this process. The cynics say that Israelis and Palestinians are too distrustful of each other, and too divided internally, to forge lasting peace. Rejectionists on both sides will try to disrupt the process, with bitter words and with bombs. Some say that the gaps between the parties are too big; the potential for talks to break down is too great; and that after decades of failure, peace is simply not possible.

But consider the alternative. If an agreement is not reached, Palestinians will never know the pride and dignity that comes with their own state. Israelis will never know the certainty and security that comes with sovereign and stable neighbors who are committed to co-existence. The hard realities of demography will take hold. More blood will be shed. This Holy Land will remain a symbol of our differences, instead of our common humanity.

But consider the alternative. If an agreement is not reached, Palestinians will never know the pride and dignity that comes with their own state. Israelis will never know the certainty and security that comes with sovereign and stable neighbors who are committed to co-existence. The hard realities of demography will take hold. More blood will be shed. This Holy Land will remain a symbol of our differences, instead of our common humanity.

 

I refuse to accept that future. We all have a choice to make. And each of us must choose the path of peace. That responsibility begins with the parties themselves, who must answer the call of history. Earlier this month, at the White House, I was struck by the words of both the Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Prime Minister Netanyahu said, "I came here today to find an historic compromise that will enable both people to live in peace, security, and dignity." President Abbas said, "We will spare no effort and we will work diligently and tirelessly to ensure these negotiations achieve their cause."

These words must be followed by action, and I believe that both leaders have the courage to do so. But the road that they have to travel is difficult, which is why I call upon Israelis and Palestinians--and the world--to rally behind the goal that these leaders share. We know there will be tests along the way, and that one is fast approaching. Israel's settlement moratorium has made a difference on the ground, and improved the atmosphere for talks. Our position on this issue is well known. We believe that the moratorium should be extended. We also believe that talks should press on until completed. Now is the time for the parties to help each other overcome this obstacle. Now is the time to build the trust--and provide the time--for substantial progress to be made. Now is the time for this opportunity to be seized, so that it doesn't slip away.

 

The conflict between Israelis and Arabs is as old as this institution. And we can come back here, next year, as we have for the last sixty, and make long speeches about it. We can read familiar lists of grievances. We can table the same resolutions. We can further empower the forces of rejectionism and hate. We can waste more time by carrying forward an argument that will not help a single Israeli or Palestinian child achieve a better life. We can do that.

 

Or, we can say that this time will be different - that this time we will not let terror, or turbulence, or posturing, or petty politics stand in the way. This time, we will think not of ourselves, but of the young girl in Gaza who wants to have no ceiling on her dreams, or the young boy in Sderot who wants to sleep without the nightmare of rocket fire. This time, we should draw upon the teachings of tolerance that lie at the heart of three great religions that see Jerusalem's soil as sacred. This time we should reach for what's best within ourselves. If we do, when we come back here next year, we can have an agreement that will lead to a new member of the United Nations - an independent, sovereign state of Palestine, living in peace with Israel.

One of the first actions of this General Assembly was to adopt a Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. That Declaration begins by stating that, “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world.

The idea is a simple one - that freedom, justice and peace for the world must begin with freedom, justice, and peace in the lives of individual human beings. And for the United States, this is a matter of moral and pragmatic necessity. As Robert Kennedy said, “the individual man, the child of God, is the touchstone of value, and all society, groups, the state, exist for his benefit.” So we stand up for universal values because it's the right thing to do. But we also know from experience that those who defend these values for their people have been our closest friends and allies, while those who have denied those rights - whether terrorist groups or tyrannical governments - have chosen to be our adversaries”.

It was a great speech exhorting Israel and Palestinian Authority to come out of the past, and instead of relying on mere words convert these words into actions for achieving peace which is for the good of every one. Thanks to Obama as narrated by him there was a definite progress during the year in the efforts to resolve the conflict. Talks, between Israel and Palestinian Authority started on the initiative of President Obama. He appreciated Israel's settlement moratorium and declared its extension as official US policy. He wanted the talks to continue until they are complete.

Hopes for an early and fair solution of the conflict were raised to new heights only because President Obama was involved in the efforts and due to his vision and an evenhanded approach. Obama looked on the way to glory and success where many others before him failed miserably. Perhaps, it was due to his courage, leadership qualities and a mission to become part of a glorious chapter in the world's history. However, some pessimist thought that it was too early to pronounce a judgment on his achievements, as according to them he was still to face the political realities and power centers in his own country.

However, despite the emphasis on Human Rights there was no mention in his speech of closure of the prison at Guantanamo Bay which was his first order as stated by him in his last year's speech. The order which was purely an internal matter having no external implications was eventually taken back. Does, that indicated the patterns of things to come and the  existence of very strong hidden forces?

The year 2011 again saw President Obama at the United Nations General Assembly with almost 3 years in presidency, more experienced, more specific, but more elusive. The tone of a go- getter has changed to that of one who was only hoping for the best. Following is a part of his speech about peace in the Middle East.

“One year ago, I stood at this podium and I called for an independent Palestine. I believed then, and I believe now, that the Palestinian people deserve a state of their own. But what I also said is that a genuine peace can only be realized between the Israelis and the Palestinians themselves. One year later, despite extensive efforts by America and others, the parties have not bridged their differences. Faced with this stalemate, I put forward a new basis for negotiations in May of this year. That basis is clear. It's well known to all of us here. Israelis must know that any agreement provides assurances for their security. Palestinians deserve to know the territorial basis of their state.

Now, I know that many are frustrated by the lack of progress. I assure you, so am I. But the question isn't the goal that we seek -- the question is how do we reach that goal. And I am convinced that there is no short cut to the end of a conflict that has endured for decades.

Peace is hard work. Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the United Nations -- if it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now. Ultimately, it is the Israelis and the Palestinians who must live side by side. Ultimately, it is the Israelis and the Palestinians -- not us -- who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them: on borders and on security, on refugees and Jerusalem.

Ultimately, peace depends upon compromise among people who must live together long after our speeches are over, long after our votes have been tallied. That's the lesson of Northern Ireland, where ancient antagonists bridged their differences. That's the lesson of Sudan, where a negotiated settlement led to an independent state. And that is and will be the path to a Palestinian state -- negotiations between the parties.

We seek a future where Palestinians live in a sovereign state of their own, with no limit to what they can achieve. There's no question that the Palestinians have seen that vision delayed for too long. It is precisely because we believe so strongly in the aspirations of the Palestinian people that America has invested so much time and so much effort in the building of a Palestinian state, and the negotiations that can deliver a Palestinian state.

But understand this as well: America's commitment to Israel's security is unshakeable. Our friendship with Israel is deep and enduring. And so we believe that any lasting peace must acknowledge the very real security concerns that Israel faces every single day.

Let us be honest with ourselves: Israel is surrounded by neighbors that have waged repeated wars against it. Israel's citizens have been killed by rockets fired at their houses and suicide bombs on their buses. Israel's children come of age knowing that throughout the region, other children are taught to hate them. Israel, a small country of less than eight million people, look out at a world where leaders of much larger nations threaten to wipe it off of the map. The Jewish people carry the burden of centuries of exile and persecution, and fresh memories of knowing that six million people were killed simply because of who they are. Those are facts. They cannot be denied.

The Jewish people have forged a successful state in their historic homeland. Israel deserves recognition. It deserves normal relations with its neighbors. And friends of the Palestinians do them no favors by ignoring this truth, just as friends of Israel must recognize the need to pursue a two-state solution with a secure Israel next to an independent Palestine.

That is the truth - each side has legitimate aspirations - and that's part of what makes peace so hard. And the deadlock will only be broken when each side learns to stand in the other's shoes; each side can see the world through the other's eyes. That's what we should be encouraging. That's what we should be promoting”.

There it was, and everybody could see a sea change in the tenor and the content of his speech in 2011, in the lack of urge for going the extra mile for the peace. While in 2010 he was saying that "we can come back here, next year, as we have for the last sixty, and make long speeches about it. We can read familiar lists of grievances. We can table the same resolutions. We can further empower the forces of rejectionism and hate. We can waste more time by carrying forward an argument that will not help a single Israeli or Palestinian child achieve a better life". But here he was, at it himself.  He cited a  list of familiar Israeli grievances amounting to accusations of the countries surrounding Israel. He did not have a plan to move forward, except for advising both Israel and Arabs to empathize with each other. There was no mention of Israeli settlements and non-extension of moratorium , which a year before was the official policy. The advice to the Arabs was  clear and loud, "Recognize Israel" Israel's precondition for any talks.

What happened in 12 months that completely changed his mind, his peace initiative, his exuberance, his vision? Was it, something internal to the United States or there were some external factors?

It was a mix of both.

Internally his declining popularity, sagging economy, defeat in the Congressional Elections might have adversely affected his confidence. Or, as discussed elsewhere he for once, has come face to face with the political realities and Centers Of power with his tenure approaching its final year. Externally the blunt refusal by the Prime Minister of Israel to listen to him and his inability to do anything to counter his tough stand and uncompromising behavior shattered him as a person. But, this was not something new and he should have thought about all these factors before embarking on this journey.

Through his words he had created an impression that he is different from the previous lot. As a  true leader he is ready to take on any one coming in his way for achieving what he considers, best for his country as well as for the world. The world had welcomed the emergence of a Statesman in Obama but, he too turned out to be a Politician , not even a Leader. He must remember that a Statesman gives his allegiance to the people and country while a Politician gives his allegiance to government. A Statesman's primary concern is to secure freedom for future generations while a Politician's primary concern is to get elected or re-elected. A Statesman will cause peace while a Politician will cause wars. A Statesman creates history while a Politician becomes part of the history the day he is out of office.

If President Obama thinks that his chances of being re-elected as president will be adversely affected if he takes necessary drastic actions for Israeli-Palestinian peace not liked by Israel, and that after re-election he would become stronger and could take on all those thwarting his way, he is not only sadly mistaken, but also playing in the hands of those who want the status quo. He may, still lose taking all his good intentions and plans with himself to Chicago. On the contrary, if he stands up now, he may make peace, create history, recognized as a Statesman and still win the elections as well as an hounrable plce in the history by winning peace. The choice lies with Obama, if he fails to grasp this moment of truth, the people of the world must join hands and voices in demanding the taking back of the Nobel Peace Award from him which, he did not deserve then and does not deserve now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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