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A New Job for Bill Clinton

Patrick Seale, the respected Middle East commentator and biographer of Hafez Assad, argues in today's GulfNews.com that

Former US president Bill Clinton may be the only man in the world able to bring the parties to the negotiating table. He is acceptable to both sides, and has enough personal authority, expert knowledge and persuasive charm to stand a reasonable chance of success. As president of the US, Clinton came close in 2000 to forging peace agreements between Israel and the Palestinians and Syrians. He should now be given a second chance.

Seale points out that "almost everyone is agreed that the unresolved Arab-Israeli conflict has developed into a major threat to international peace and security... the conflict has brutalized Israel... Palestinian and Lebanese societies have been shattered... the U.S. has been stripped of moral authority... there is no more urgent problem on the international agenda.  Seale suggests that Bill Clinton be assisted in this task by former World Bank president James Wolfensohn.

OK, so this is hardly the first time that former President Clinton has been touted for such a position, and, yes, I know that it is politically inconceivable as long as his wife is a presidential candidate.  But two points worth echoing are being made here: First is how little political-diplomatic effort is invested in a conflict that, while claiming comparatively few casualties, actually has such a dramatic impact in the regional and even global setting.  There has almost been an inverse relationship in the last years between the anti-US radicalism fueled and exploited by this conflict, on the one hand, and the political capital devoted to solving it, on the other.  Of course it becomes all the more infuriating when one considers that the solutions are relatively known and even attainable. 

The second observation that the fantastical Bill Clinton nomination gives rise to is this: what happened to the idea of deploying heavyweight diplomatic fixers?  (Heavyweight, that is, in terms of authority and substance, not necessarily physique.)  The US has had no Mideast envoy since the Bush Administration came into office.  Now I don't see having an envoy as being an end in itself.  But have there not been moments when a focused and experienced diplomatic presence could have helped push regional developments in a more helpful direction?  I know, I know.  If one is averse to diplomacy, it doesn't leave much room for dynamic diplomats. 

And here is an afterthought... There are parameters for Israeli-Palestinian peace known as the Clinton Plan.  Is it supported by the presidential candidates for '08, including the one whose name already adorns the plan?

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Comments (5)

Danny:

I might be missing something. I don't see what's so special about the "Clinton Plan." It sounds exactly like everything else that's been attempted in the past. What makes Levy think that this one will work?

RB Renfro:

I respect Patrick Seale but don't think Clinton is the one for the job.
Partly because of Hillary's position.

No, for Isr-Pal we need someone completely divorced from preference for either side and not related to any personal political aspirations.

The only person who comes to mind right now is James Baker. Not my cup of tea in some of his tactics, but totally capable of applying sticks and carrots to both parties equally and brooking no nonsense.

yasmin:

James Wolfensohn is hardly the right candidate for peace talks, given that the vision of the World Bank in its "Economic Revival" Program for Palestine envisions and implements a Ghetto-State providing cheap labor trapped in Bantustans behind the Apartheid Wall.

On the other hand, some would consider him the perfect candidate, wouldn't they?

yasmin:

do you think it is possible to sincerely negotiate with Israel? in other words, do you believe Israel has ever shown a sincere desire to negotiate for peace?

SLC:

Re Patrick Seale a respected commentator on Middle East affairs? Mr. Levy must be having me on. Mr. Seale is about as respected as Norman Finkelstein.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on June 1, 2007 6:48 PM.

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