Inside the Middle East
October 11, 2009
Posted: 814 GMT

By Ben Wedeman
CNN Correspondent

CAIRO, Egypt (CNN) - When President Barack Obama came to Cairo in June and made his address to the Muslim world, reaction in Egypt was wildly positive.

U.S. President Obama delivers a key address at the Cairo University campus in June, 2009
U.S. President Obama delivers a key address at the Cairo University campus in June, 2009

Many Egyptians had fallen in love with the new young American president with an Arabic middle name. Some even picked up the "Yes we can" slogan.

His appeal was fueled by an almost unanimous dislike for his predecessor, George W. Bush, widely perceived in the region as a Christian fundamentalist leading an anti-Muslim crusade.

But that was then. Euphoria has a short shelf life in the Middle East, and Barack Obama is not exempt.

To gauge reaction among Egyptian intellectuals to the news, I called Hisham Qassim, a democracy and human rights activist I've known for many years. He was perplexed at the news from Norway.

President Obama, he said, "is stumbling in the Middle East. He hasn't achieved any of his promises, and the Arab-Israeli conflict appears to be getting even nastier."

In short, he said, "nothing is working."

One winner of the Nobel peace prize Egyptians continue to admire is former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who won the prize in 2002.

After personally overseeing prolonged and painstaking negotiations between Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, Carter brokered the 1978 Camp David Peace Accords. It was the first peace agreement between Israel and an Arab country, and one a majority of Egyptians still believe was a major landmark in their long history.

Egyptians contrast Carter's intensive involvement in peace efforts with Obama's stab at peace-making between Israel and the Palestinians. After initially demanding Israel halt all settlement construction in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, the Obama administration softened its stand after running into a concrete wall of opposition from hard-line Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Obama administration is seen, not only in Egypt but also across the Arab world, as following in the footsteps of so many previous American administrations, caving in to Israeli intransigence. It hardly augurs well for peace in the Middle East, especially at a time when tensions are simmering in Jerusalem, with some wondering if a third Palestinian intifada is in the making.

Hisham Qasim, the human rights activist, pointed out to me that the deadline for submission of nomination to the Nobel Committee is early February, which means that the nomination was, at least in theory, made on the basis of Obama's performance after less than two weeks in office.

He still has more than three years to go before the next elections, and the United States is embroiled in two costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and is, according to some reports, considering military action against Iran. There is an awful lot of war on America's plate at the moment.

For all these reasons, it's not surprising that many in the Middle East say it's a tad premature to be handing Barack Obama the peace laurels.

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Filipe   October 11th, 2009 8:51 am ET

Yes- It certainly appears that the Nobel Committee is as infatuated with the oratory skills of the same empty suit politician as the Americans who voted him into office.

Shouldn't this coveted award belong to someone who has demonstrated a long track record of perseverance and accomplishment in the name of peace-as opposed to someone who simply talks about it and has accomplished nothing??

miriam   October 11th, 2009 12:09 pm ET

I agree that this award is premature and evident of an almost messianic following of declared promises which will most likely prove unattainable in the end.
We can all hope, but reality is usually far from fantasy.

For most Egyptians, peace with Israel is imaginary. Anti-Israel attitudes have not changed, their President refuses to set foot in Israel and all that matters is American aid dependent on keeping the cold peace.

The whole concept that world peace is dependent on Israel and the Palestinians is an excuse for military dictatorships and absolute monarchies to deflect from their own internal crises and challenges to power, while enabling their own criminal policies to be ignored by the rest of the world.
Their escapades are aided by a gullible media who spoon-feed from the distorted and false facts they are provided, with the accompanying side-dish of advertising contracts for the parent companies as a reward.

John A   October 11th, 2009 12:19 pm ET

The Nobel committee try to embarrass Obama into action instead of words. Obama promised "a change we can believe in". Yet the troops remain in Afghanistan and Iraq. Guantanamo Bay remains active, the lobbies in America still call the shots and Israel has not frozen its illegal expansion of its illegal military occupation.

In short Obama has made the talk and backed away from the walk. The Nobel prize was not meant to humble him, it was meant to encourage him to do what he promised. It will be harder now for Obama the Nobel prize winner to run away from his promises like most politicians do.

Fred   October 12th, 2009 11:07 am ET

Obama is not the messiah... He is a mere mortal whose timing and message offers a ray of hope of dialogue and reconcilitation in troubled times. Whether his message can help ignite change will depend upon how people choose to receive it. We will be waiting a long time if we think it is Obama`s responsibility. He serves as a conduit but we the people and more importantly those impacted by the ongoing violence, intolerance, political games manship are the ones who have to change and that starts from within, within our hearts our families, our communities... Nothing short of this is only setting Obama up as the fall guy when things don`t work out... Just anothert person to blame for our misery because we do not have the will to change.

miriam   October 12th, 2009 11:09 am ET

John A,

That's why it is irresponsible for everyone to assume such successes from a President who, after all, has to depend on the democratic process to achieve any dreams. Unless he is a dictator of course.

BTW, Israel is a democracy and doesn't need other nations to dictate what it should do.
There is no "occupation" and there is no "expansion".
Throughout nearly 20 years of negotiations, the Palestinians never demanded a settlement freeze. It was part of an initiative of the Israelis, as a good will gesture, which the Palestinians rejected, and it never meant pausing an expectant mother's pregnancy or refusing kids an education.

Filipe   October 12th, 2009 7:56 pm ET

John A,

Per the Oslo accords, Settlements are to be negotiated between the parties as part of the final status issues. But since the great one, Obama and Hilary Clinton spoke up and said "freeze" all of a sudden the settlements have become a precondition for even starting the negotiations !!!!

What a hoot !!!!

That really has worked !!!

Maybe that's why he won the prize !

John A   October 13th, 2009 9:19 am ET
Executive Intelligence Revie

To help you understand the Oslo Peace accord signed in 1993:

The point is often made that, in war, the first casualty is the truth. In this case, it has been the systematic suppression of the truth and distortion of facts, which has paved the way for the current war.

It is time the truth were reasserted.

The truth is, the Oslo peace accord of September 1993 failed, because powerful Israeli interests and their U.S.-based allies caused it to fail. In an interview that September, U.S. Presidential pre-candidate Lyndon LaRouche forecast prophetically, that, unless immediate progress were made on the economic aspects of the peace agreements, "enemies of progress and enemies of the human race, such as Henry Kissinger and his friends, will be successful, through people like Ariel Sharon's buddies, in intervening to drown this agreement in chaos and blood."

That is, in short, what happened. By handing control over economic development programs appended to the Oslo treaty to the World Bank, Kissinger's friends ensured that no large-scale infrastructure would be built. Instead of enjoying a peace dividend in terms of better living conditions, the Palestinians would experience a deterioration of their already disastrous conditions. This would generate demoralization, and rage—the primary ingredients for radicalization—particularly among youth, rendering them vulnerable to recruitment into extremist organizations, such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which are opposed to peace.

The assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on Nov. 4, 1995, by right-wing Israeli extremist networks, was the political inflection point, intersecting the economic crisis. Rabin's Foreign Minister, a terrified Shimon Peres then threw the 1996 elections to Likudnik Benjamin Netanyahu, who reversed whatever implementation of Oslo there had been, and embarked on a confrontation course, by expanding illegal Israeli settlements and launching provocations. His successor, Barak, continued to dismantle Oslo, which culminated in the "offer" at Camp David, that Israel should maintain sovereignty over Jerusalem, including the sites sacred to Islam—an offer that no Arab leader, no Muslim, could accept. Following the fruitless Camp David talks, the religious passions associated with Jerusalem were consciously ignited by Sharon on Sept. 28, 2000, who demonstratively took a stroll, escorted by 1,000 Israeli police, by the holiest Islamic shrine in Jerusalem, the al-Haram al-Sharif. That act, which showed just how sensitive the Jerusalem issue is (and should have clarified why Arafat could not have accepted the Camp David offer), triggered the Intifada. This act by Sharon, is omitted from any U.S. or Israeli chronologies. Sharon's provocation was also the opening salvo to his election campaign. Once elected prime minister, by an electorate panicked by the violence that his provocation had produced, Sharon proceeded post-haste to finish off what little remained of the peace process.
What Oslo Said

The Oslo Accord signed on Sept. 13, 1993, was a political and economic program for peace. It called for establishment of a Palestinian interim self-governing authority, for the West Bank and Gaza, for a five-year period, leading to a final settlement, based on UN Resolutions 242 and 338. These call for the "withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied" in the 1967 war, secure and recognized borders, and a "just settlement of the refugee problem" regarding those Palestinians driven off their land in the wars since 1948, estimated to add up to 5 million today. The final status talks, which were to begin "not later than the third year" of the interim period, would deal with "Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, security arrangements, borders, relations, and cooperation among neighbors, etc." The P.A. was designated to establish a "strong police force," while Israel would guarantee security against external threats. The civil administration would be withdrawn, the Israeli troops would withdraw from Jericho and Gaza, while "redeploying" in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, outside populated areas.

In 1995, the Israeli-Palestinian interim Agreement on the West Bank and Gaza, dubbed Oslo II, stipulated the second phase of self-rule, including provisions of elections of the Palestinian National Authority, a gradual withdrawal of Israeli military and handing over power to the Palestinians in the occupied territories, and the "prohibition of any change in the status of the West Bank and Gaza pending the outcome of final status negotiations." The West Bank was to be divided up into Areas A, B, and C, under P.A. control, joint control, and Israeli control, respectively.

The most important aspect of the Oslo Accords, dealt with economic policy. It was explicitly recognized that no peace could endure, unless there were cooperation among the former adversaries around economic development, for mutual benefit. Various Palestinian institutions were foreseen, to regulate water, energy, transportation, finances, etc. Two annexes to the accords were drawn up, protocols on joint cooperation for economic and regional development, which specifically identified a number of great projects: the Gaza Sea Port, the "Mediterranean-Dead Sea canal," "regional desalination and other water development projects," agriculture, energy, and industrial development.
How Oslo Was Wrecked

The most effective means by which the Oslo Accords were sabotaged, was through economic policy. No sooner had the ink dried, than the World Bank issued a report on "development," whose parameters were simple: High priority would go to labor-intensive projects, and the lowest priority for basic infrastructure, like the canals, ports, energy, and transportation mentioned in the annexes. The World Bank report was an operative doctrine, which governed the way in which funds from donor nations were allocated. Thus, a gambling casino was considered a good investment, as was "repair of existing infrastructure" in Gaza—a cruel joke, since no infrastructure existed. It was only through European Union efforts, that any major infrastructure projects were built: the Gaza airport and sea port, for example, as well as water treatment plants and the Palestinian radio and television center. All these major projects were defined as military targets and systematically destroyed by Sharon's rampage in 2002.

The World Bank's ban on great projects was complemented by the closure policy introduced by Netanyahu, whereby, following any episodes of Palestinian violence, entire cities would be blockaded. Palestinians who travelled daily into Israel for work, were prevented from doing so, and the economic consequences were devastating. In 1993 and 1994, due to closures, unemployment went up to 10% and 15%; by the end of 1995 and early 1996, it reached 20%, and in March and April during closures, it hit 50%. In 1999, only 600 Palestinians were allowed to enter and exit the West Bank and Gaza, while the remaining 2 million were confined. Following Sharon's provocation at al-Haram al-Sharif in September 2000, violence broke out, and the Israeli regime responded with further closures. According to a UN report, in the weeks thereafter, P.A. GDP was cut in half. The number of Palestinian workers allowed into Israel for their jobs, was reduced by 53%. The effects on living standards were catastrophic, as 1998 reports on poverty in the P.A.—the first of their kind—documented. Palestinians were living in crowded quarters, school facilities were lacking water, electricity, and toilets, and food supplies were inadequate. In the rapidly growing Palestinian population—2.89 million in 1997—47% were under the age of 15. In Jenin, the site of the most intransigent Palestinian resistance, the water shortage was rendered severe due to the Israeli siege.

Nor was the suffering only economic in nature. Parallel to the closure policy, the Israelis, beginning with the Netanyahu government in 1996, accelerated their violations of the political clauses of the Oslo Accords.

Most important were the Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory. It was explicitly stated in those accords, that they prohibit "any change in the status of the West Bank, etc." Instead, every Israeli government since Oslo has continued the policy of expanding settlements. Since Barak took office in July 1999, tenders for the construction of at least 3,499 settlement housing units were issued in the occupied territories, and construction began on 2,270 units. Twenty-seven new settlement outposts (habitations not contiguous with settlements) were built since the signing of the Wye Plantation agreements in 1996—11 after March 1999. Fifteen new settlement outposts were approved for construction following the inauguration of Sharon in March 2001.

The settlements are connected one to the other, and to Israel, by bypass roads, which have created a new phenomenon in transportation geography, whereby all Israeli settlements are linked up, but Palestinian villages and cities are isolated, like so many apartheid-era bantustans. The Palestinians are not allowed to use these roads. The road connections between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, promised in the Oslo Accords, have not been built. Crazy schemes for an elevated highway to connect the two, without touching "Israeli land," have been floated. All this is in blatant violation of the Oslo Accords, which promised links between the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza, considered an inseparable unit!

The Israeli military withdrawal and redeployment (even before Sharon's reoccupation began), has also been a farce. Area A, where the P.A. is supposed to have complete control over security and civil administration, accounts for 18% of the total area of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Area B accounts for 24%, and Area C, where Israel has total control, is 59%. Israel controls all borders to the Palestinian territories, and therefore the passage of persons and goods. Israel controls all roads in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza, except for those in Area A. Israel controls 80% of the water resources, and all of Gaza's territorial waters.

Thus, if one wants to talk about violation of the Oslo Accords, one has to recognize, they have been made on the Israeli side, under a succession of governments: economic cooperation denied, infrastructure development blocked, transport communications sabotaged, economic life stifled, and political autonomy denied.
The Anti-Terrorism Fraud

Especially since Sept. 11, Israeli authorities have justified their increasing aggressions against the P.A., as part of the "war against terrorism." Their mantra has been, that Arafat "violated" the Oslo Accords, in that he did not use his extraordinary powers to annihilate terrorist organizations. The entire argument championed by Bush, that Arafat has "not done enough" to rein in terrorism, etc., is also a fallacy of composition.

The Oslo Accords mandated the P.A. to build a police force to maintain law and order, which it did. The acts of violence that erupted, especially under the Netanyahu regime, were organized by the militant Palestinian organization Hamas and the Islamic Jihad. Both have been, since their founding, sworn enemies of Arafat's P.A. Hamas was in fact created and nurtured by Israeli intelligence networks—officially—as a counterweight to Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization in the 1980s (see Dean Andromidas, "Israeli Roots of Hamas Are Being Exposed," EIR, Jan. 18, 2002). Sharon personally was involved in promoting Hamas in its early activities.

When the recent crisis escalated, with suicide bombings claimed by Hamas or Islamic Jihad, Sharon's response was not to pursue these elements, but rather, to launch all-out warfare against the P.A., emphatically targetting the P.A.'s police force—that institution which had been shaped, according to Oslo, as the force to establish law and order, and root out terrorism. By killing large numbers of P.A. police and security, the Israelis have made it impossible for them to act effectively against terror. The entire offensive launched by Sharon recently has targetted the P.A., the P.A. police, P.A. security, and Arafat's personal security. It has not at all targetted Hamas or Islamic Jihad. As noted by Russian strategic analyst Pavel Felgengauer, it is as if Sharon and the Hamas are working together. In fact, although Sharon invaded every major Palestinian village and city in the West Bank, he strangely left Gaza, the stronghold of Hamas, untouched. He has been systematically killing P.A. police and security, but not the terrorists themselves.

Bush would surely brush all these facts aside, and repeat, "It's the terrorism—Arafat won't bring the suicide bombers and other terrorists under control. That's the problem." At this point, one should ask Bush to review the history as it unfolded: Who was, in fact, the first suicide bomber to ignite violence in the region? Was it some Hamas activist? Or was it not one Baruch Goldstein, a fanatical Israeli settler of the Kach movement, who opened fire on a group of praying Muslims, killing 50, in a Hebron mosque, on Feb. 25, 1994? Was not this what triggered the beginning of the Palestinian suicide bombings, two months later? And who was it, who assassinated Rabin, the Israeli military professional who had opted for peace? Was it a Palestinian terrorist, or was it a right-wing Israeli extremist, acting in complicity with elements of Israeli security?

miriam   October 13th, 2009 2:16 pm ET

John A,

Not a surprise you would cut and paste from yet another notorious anti-zionist, basing her arguments in those of another notorious anti-semite.

LaRouche may have been a presidential candidate, but he was in prison during the Oslo Accords.
For someone who believes "history is nothing but conspiracies", it's no wonder you are a follower.

As for as economic development as a necessary factor in the peace process, that is exactly the policy that Netanyahu is emphasizing and receiving criticism for from some in the international community.

Jerusalem, settlement, refugees. security and borders were deliberately omitted from the accords, to be discussed by both sides at a later date, however Israel unilaterally stopped new settlement building as a good-will gesture which was answered by an increase in PA sponsered terror attacks on Israelis.

What do you care anyway?Oslo is all history and must therefore be a conspiracy!

Filipe   October 13th, 2009 6:49 pm ET

John A,

What does any of your Cut N Paste gibberish have to do with the fact that--- "Per the Oslo accords, Settlements are to be negotiated between the parties as part of the final status issues" ????

It really is of no consequence as to why or how the accords have failed to lead to a timely resolution to "final status issues"-– the fact remains-- the settlement issue was never, by any one's agreements, ever to be a precondition to peace negotiations !!!

But that's OK, the Palis can make it a precondition. Go for it !! All that will result is further delay to the negotiations of the final status issues and more time for the Israelis to build additional structures.

So tell me--who is benefiting by the delay of the peace process by insisting that a settlement "freeze" is a precondition??

Looks to me to be the typical result of the Palis stepping on their own **** because they just don't know any better.

Lyndon LaRouche !!!!! Bwaaaaa !!! Ah ha ha ha ha ha !!!!!!! I should have known where you get your imbecilic ideology from from !!!!!

His place in history was secured a long time ago!!!!! So was his philosophies and ideology!!!! That's OK John-follow in your mentors' footsteps !!!! Ah ha ha ha ha ha ha !!!!!

DeMarques Taylor   October 13th, 2009 7:42 pm ET

I do believe Barack Obama deserves some type of credit. He is trying to clean up everything in the Middle East. He deserves the peace prize. I do not believe he deserves any negative comments. I feel he is already done more than George Bush when it comes to creating peace in the Middle East. I applaud Obama cause his address to Middle East muslims were quite positive and won the hearts of many of them.

miriam   October 14th, 2009 11:51 am ET

DeMarques Taylor,

I beg to differ.
Firstly, there are many conflicts in the world other than those in the Middle East and it is time they were given some of the attention their populations deserve.

While George Bush was president, despite the fact that his term began in the midst of the second intifada, some of the leaders of the region resumed talking and negotiating.
Since Obama took office, the PA will not officially meet with Israel (although unofficially, the PA leaders continue to be granted all kinds of privileges by Israel), Hamas will not meet with Fatah and vice versa, with both in competition for the anti-Israel incitement trophy.

Hamas and Hizbollah, aided by the Muslim Brotherhood and Northern Israel Islamic Movement, are rewriting history and reality with ever more fantastic stories, poisoning world opinion because of the, at the best, gullible, but most likely, complicit world media.

Russia and China are increasingly siding with Iran and its "democratically" elected, theocratic, military dictatorship.

Turkey prefers to advance its political and military relationship with Syria (and most probably Iran) than hold NATO exercises.

Most Arab countries do not understand why the security council permanent 5 plus Germany cannot make progress over the Iranian issue but they do not express themselves since it would reveal their desire for Israel to get on with the job and bomb Iran.

Obama did not win the Muslim hearts with his comments.
All he needed to say is "I'm not Bush".

James Ullinskey   October 15th, 2009 6:47 am ET

On sept . 24th th in Chicago , an honor student named Derrion Albert was beat with boards & kicked to death . This act was captured on cell phone & then seen around the world. The next day , Pres Obama petitioned the Olympic Cmte for Chicago as a site for the Olympics , he was turned down. The political right complained of the cost for the trip.
A week later , the President awoke to a surprise , the Nobel peace prize. He said he wasn’t worthy of this award for anything he’d done , but hopefully , for what he hoped to achieve. This , I believe was spoken in humility & honesty. Later that night , i listened to Limbaugh & Beck & how they agreed with al-qaeda & i got angry.
Pres Obama recieved 1.4 million dollars from the Nobel Cmte, what should be done with this money is to split it. If we as a nation seek to promote peace & work for answers to peace in peoples who’s differences go back thousands of years, we should be able to do something about our children killing children . Wether its for who can walk down a street or wether its over a bicycle .In many of the countries we are involved in , the differences are many , social , religious , political , economical & ancient.
Pres Obama needs to make a statement , if i desire to remove that splinter from your eye , i need to work on the log in mine , that i may see more clearly . Chicago’s children , from Pres. Obama’s back yard are dying . He sees this & orders a meeting between the Atty Gen & Education Secy & Chi Mayor . This is criticized as to the location , downtown as to Fenger High School .
There is a group in Chicago , Cease Fire , their success is noted. What we need to do is petition that half the Nobel prize money go to our own back yard , then the other half to an area where it is also desperately needed. Wether in Gaza or Iraq , to help promote peace between sunni & shiite , or Israeli & Palestinian .That people should have a place where they dont have to worry about rockets or suicide bombers or drive by shooters. To say to the political right & to the world , we truly are seeking peace

university rector   October 16th, 2009 5:09 pm ET

John A

who are you quoting as an expert?U.S. Presidential pre-candidate Lyndon LaRouche

The same La Rouche that (according to Wikipedia):

By the mid-1970s, LaRouche and his movement were no longer promoting a socialist agenda. There are conflicting views on the new direction that was taken. British author Antony Lerman writes that LaRouche moved from Marxism to far-right, even neo-Nazi, ideas, along with the development of conspiracy theories and paranoia about his personal safety, often involving alleged attempts to assassinate him

you are sucha sorry specimen, i have seen smarter antisemites than you!!

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