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Obama Goes Aggressive On Middle East

Ambassador Zalman Shoval: "President Obama is sending George Mitchell on fact-finding mission before reaching decision on how to proceed"

"Doubtful that Obama will adopt any half-baked plan that could end in failure"

IsraCast assessment: After the Gaza war, Obama peace mission will become a major issue of Israeli election campaign

Barack Obama

US President Barack Obama has officially announced that he is sending former U.S. Senator George Mitchell to the Middle East in a new attempt to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. At a State Department news conference, Obama spoke of aggressively tackling the issue but what can realistically be expected after the recent war between Israel and Hamas? IsraCast turned to Zalman Shoval, a former Israeli ambassador to Washington, who believes president Obama will look before he leaps into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Shoval added: "I do not believe that President Obama will make the mistake of coming up with a half-baked plan that could end in failure"

"I believe President Obama is sending Sen. Mitchell on a fact-finding mission to meet with regional leaders and study the situation before the new American leader decides on how to proceed". That's the assessment of Zalman Shoval, a former Israeli ambassador to Washington. With an Israeli elections set for February 10, the Obama administration would then bide its time before a new Israeli government takes office. But if the Arab world now has very high expectations for the Obama administration when it comes to other Middle East issues such as Iraq and the Iranian nuclear threat, might this lead to US pressure on Israel to accept Palestinian demands.

George Mitchell

Ambassador Shoval said there was no connection between the problems of Iraq and Iran's nuclear development with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And Shoval added: "I do not believe that President Obama will make the mistake of coming up with a half-baked plan that could end in failure".

In Northern Ireland, no one community was trying to wipe the other off the map, as Hamas was trying to do to Israel

He went on to say that Sen. George Mitchell was a first class negotiator while also noting that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was vastly different from Northern Ireland, where Mitchell had brokered a peace agreement. In Northern Ireland, no one community was trying to wipe the other off the map, as Hamas was trying to do to Israel. But what of the European approach that after the war in Gaza, now was the time to seize the moment for an agreement with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu-Mazen) on the West Bank? Shoval replied that the real question was if Mahmoud Abbas was strong enough to make peace with Israel or whether it was first necessary to create a Palestinian economic infrastructure and governance that could sustain a peace accord with Israel. Only after this trial period, would it be possible to consider the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. This is the approach proposed by Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu. In any case, Shoval who is a Likud Party member, believed that President Obama has yet to decide.

Kadima leader Tzipi Livni and Labor's Ehud Barak have challenged Netanyahu's approach, contending that it will lead to a collision with the Obama administration

Post-script: After the Gaza war, the question of the Obama peace mission will now become a major issue in the Israeli election campaign. Kadima leader Tzipi Livni and Labor's Ehud Barak have challenged Netanyahu's approach, contending that it will lead to a collision with the Obama administration. Both Livni and Barak remain committed to negotiations on the two-state solution as proposed in the Roadmap peace plan, proposed by the U.S., European Union, Russia and the UN.

Click here for a panoramic image from the north press platform during President Obama's inaugural address at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC on January 20, 2009.

David Essing

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