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October 6, 2009 Special Dispatch No. 2575

Editor of London-Based Saudi Daily 'Al-Sharq Al-Awsat': Settlements Are Not an Obstacle to Peace; Arabs Should Focus on the Essential, Set Their House in Order, and Resolve Regional Problems that Threaten Peace

October 6, 2009
Palestine | Special Dispatch No. 2575

In an September 29, 2009 op-ed, Tariq Al-Homayed, editor of the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, argues that the issue of settlements is not in itself an obstacle to peace, and that rather than blame U.S. President Barack Obama for dashing their hopes, the Arabs should help him earn Israel's trust, focus on the essential, set their house in order,and resolve regional problems that threaten peace.

Following are excerpts from the article: [1]

"The Issue of Settlements Will Not Be Resolved until after Peace Has Been Achieved - Just as Yamit Was Removed [Only] After the Israeli-Egyptian Peace Agreement"

"The question that is often asked today is: Has Obama dashed the Arabs' hopes that he is earnest in seeking a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict? [It is generally assumed that] the answer to this question is contingent on the extent to which the U.S. President is able to halt the construction of Israeli settlements.

"The problem with the issue of [Israeli] settlements is that… Washington, and particularly the Israeli lobby, could argue that [it is] the Arabs who have dashed Obama's hopes by not taking any steps to help him earn Israel's trust. [Indeed,] the issue of settlements is just another controversial issue. Obama did not dash our hopes, since, in politics, there is no room for either hope or disappointment - politics is the art of the possible. The truth that must be told to the Arabs today is that, unfortunately, they have swallowed [Israel's] bait.

"By linking the launching of peace negotiations to the halting the [construction of] settlements we have given Israel an excuse to dodge the peace process. Settlements are not an obstacle to peace; rather, they have become an obstacle to the launching of peace negotiations - and Israel is the one that has gained by it.

"The issue of settlements will not be resolved until peace has been achieved, just as Yamit was removed [only] after the Israeli-Egyptian peace agreement. It must be kept in mind that Israel has two aims in adopting a tough stance on the issue of settlements: First, it seeks to raise the price of peace... and second, it attempts to incite the Arabs to reject the peace process from the outset, and thereby to foil the efforts... of President Obama, who, unlike his predecessors, strives to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict while still in his first term in office…

"The Arabs Must Focus on the Essential - Right of Return, Jerusalem - Instead of [Blaming] Obama for Dashing Their Hopes"

"Accordingly, the Arabs today have a genuine opportunity to achieve peace and establish a Palestinian state. All they have to do is take this opportunity and focus on the essential - the [Palestinian] refugees' right of return, the issue of Jerusalem, etc. - rather than [blame] Obama for dashing their hopes.

"The Arabs should also make efforts to put their own house in order, so that the intra-Palestinian division is no longer an obstacle to peace negotiations… They must strive to resolve [regional] problems that threaten peace, including their differences with Syria - which has [finally] realized that the Iranian boat is sinking. It must also make order in Lebanon and [face] Hizbullah, which is serving the interests of Iran rather than those of Lebanon or the Arabs.

"These are the important things that need to be addressed, so as not to miss the genuine opportunity presented by Obama through being preoccupied [solely] with the issue of settlements [at a time] when our region is about to face the resolution of the Iranian nuclear issue and when Iran is taking advantage of our problems to advance its own interests."

Endnotes:

[1] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), September 29, 2009.

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