Will Obama save the Middle East?

A small portrait of the translator

November 26, 2008 @ 17:42 UTC

Written by

Iran, Israel, Palestine
Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden
International Relations

The New Yorker thinks all these big names might work:

The team of Barack (Grandpa Was a Muslim) Obama, Hillary (I’m a Clinton) Clinton, and Rahm (Israel) Emanuel (that’s his real middle name! and he was a volunteer with the I.D.F. during the 1991 Gulf War!), with Joe Biden and Bill Clinton pitching in as necessary, would put the new Administration in an extremely powerful position to apply the kind of pressure that would give Israeli politicians the political cover they need to reach a settlement with the Palestinians. Everyone knows what the deal would look like, including Ehud Olmert. It’s a question of having the political strength and exerting the will to make it happen.

It’s a good possibility. Over on BBC blogs, Robin Lustig has even created some scenarios, which look plausible. To be honest, I think all this is a bit optimistic, with too many variables all over the place.

Obama’s priorities will roughly be in this order: economy, environment and healthcare. And frankly, given how fast the US economy is diving, I don’t blame him. Obama has also appointed heavy-hitters to deal with healthcare and the environment, ensuring they will move fast through Congress. He’ll want to get work done.

The only way FP will come is if it forces its way onto the table. This may depend on how Iran behaves. If it wants to talk, and Obama is in a strong position, then tension may ease across the Middle East and Obama could bang Israeli and Palestinians heads together. Otherwise, all the time will be taken up trying to deal with Iranian nuclear ambitions and a hawkish Russia, with Israel/Palestine condemned to the backburner. Which is why I’m not expecting much from Obama on foreign policy. If I was his position I would do the same. The environment, to me, is a far bigger priority than the Middle East - over the long term it will kill more people and there’s a lot of damage Bush has done.

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