Monday, January 26, 2009

George Mithchell, Northern Ireland and the Middle East

President Obama has sent former Senator George Mitchell to the Middle East to work as US special envoy on the Israeli Palestinian conflict. This is Obama sending a clear message as I hoped he would that he intends to prioritise the Mid East conflict in the first year of his administration unlike Clinton and Bush both of whom only initiated peace talks in their final year in office. As we know in Ireland George Mitchell is a very talented negotiator and diplomat who played a notably positive role in the Northern Ireland Peace process.

I am particularly enthusiastic about this development for the following reasons. One of the biggest political convictions that I have is that there are clear lessons to be learned from the Northern Ireland peace process that can be applied directly to the Middle East. It frustrates me that even Irish people don't seem to appreciate this hence the utterly useless debate that dominated the airwaves here during the recent war in Gaza. It is lessons that I have learned while examining events in the North that led me to reject the badly informed yet highly opinionated Israel bashing approach that so many in this country seem to take.

I was fortunate enough to hear Goerge Mitchell speak on the Middle East at the Royal Irish Academy, a Dublin Think Tank, several years ago. His opening speech influenced me greatly. He laid it out as it is. I always remember the words "the Mid East conflict is a conflict to be resolved, not a war to be won". To resolve this thing what we need is for both sides to abandon their dreams and realise that their is no winner takes all solution to the conflict. The Palestinians and the wider Arab world must, absolutely must reconcile with the fact that the Jewish state is a permanent resident in the region and that clinging to a goal of kicking all the jooz into sea is a non starter. That means recognising Israel, not just on paper but fundamentally as well. This means challenging and confronting the widespread bigotry in the Arab world that manifests itself in Holocaust denial and other forms of anti semitism.

Likewise the Israelis have to realise that the Palestinians are going nowhere. All to often the emphasis is on Arab failure to recognise Israel's right to exist. Well I am getting tired of hearing Israelis and their right wing Jewish and Christian Zionist supporters claim that there is no such thing as a Palestinian. Palestinians are just refugees from the Arab Israeli wars, they never were a real people, they have no legitimate claim to the land, they rant. This is the same as denying Palestinians the right to exist. All reasonable people know that many Israelis only have one real objective, to make life hell for the Palestinians so they will all either flee to Jordan "where they belong" or resist at a level the Israelis can control because this is the environment in which Israelis can seize more land, build more settlements and fulfill the biblical prophecy of a greater Israel. Once these two loony concepts of total victory are eliminated then all the issues like Final borders, Jerusalem and refugees suddenly become very solvable. This was the gist of Mitchell's speech at the Royal Irish Academy and he got it spot on.

I am delighted to know that this man is heading to the region to team up with Tony Blair and others to push for a two state solution in 2009. Watch the man himself speak on the similarities between the two conflicts the greatest of which is the fact that they were both thought to be unsolvable.


J Mc said...

A new Middle East crisis erupted last night as Dubai TV refused to broadcast the Flintstones.

A spokesman said Dubai people won't understand the humour, but those in Abu Dhabi do….

Annie said...

Good joke J Mc!

Sending George Mitchell to the middle east can only be a good thing and instills a sense of hope in me where previously there was only doubt.

Looking forward to hearing more.

Ted Leddy said...

John as you know I lived in Dubai and I can tell you that there is real historical tension that still exists today between the ruling families in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. I just hope this latest Flintstones crisis does not trigger a regional war.

Oh wait, Abu Dhabi do... I get it.

Ted Leddy said...

Thanks Annie

I agree and I firmly believe that 2009 could be the year that a two state solution is finally reached. There have been a lot of behind the scenes work in the last couple of years to achieve this and now with the white house behind it I am very optimistic.

Ted Leddy said...
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