News

    New U.S. Middle East Envoy Wins Approval but Little Confidence for His Mission

    Multimedia

    Audio
    America’s new Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, is back from his first trip to the region and will likely return there later this month.   He met with the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority and visited Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia.  His week-long mission was billed as a “listening tour,” but was also intended to reinforce the new cease-fire between Israel and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip.

    A British Perspective

    British journalist Ian Williams says there is renewed hope for peace in the Middle East, partly because of George Mitchell’s prior success in negotiating a peace treaty for Northern Ireland.  Speaking with host Judith Latham of VOA News Now’s International Press Club, Williams notes that, when Ambassador Mitchell was previously involved in the Middle East, “he did play the part of a even-handed broker in assessing the conditions in the West Bank, which is reassuring for the Arab side, even though some people on the Israeli side seem to find that a lot less reassuring.”

    According to Ian Williams, the difference that the new Middle East envoy makes depends largely on “whether he has the full faith and credit of the Obama administration.”  Williams observes that Ambassador Mitchell is working under very difficult conditions.  “The Gaza incursion has probably reinforced Hamas’ hand.”  Furthermore, it has “added to the likelihood of Benjamin Netanyahu being elected [Israeli prime minister] because he benefits from an upsurge of militarism in Israel.”   Williams notes that the former Prime Minister refuses to accept the possibility of a Palestinian state, and he has said he will continue expanding West Bank settlements.  According to Williams, if Mr. Netanyahu is elected, the real test is going to be whether Washington is “prepared to allow him to rip up the U.S. plan with impunity” and whether President Barack Obama is “prepared to carry on giving diplomatic, military, and economic support to a government that defies him.”

    An Israeli Perspective

    However, polls published on February 6th in Israeli newspapers suggest the parliamentary race between Israel’s two largest parties – Likud and Kadima – is getting closer, while support for hard-line parties on the right - especially Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beitenu (Israel Is Our Home) - is growing.  Some regional analysts are predicting that it might be easier for Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud Party to build a coalition than it would for Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni who currently heads the center-right Kadima Party.  And that, of course, could alter the direction of peace talks with the Palestinians.According to Israeli journalist Nathan Guttman of the Jewish Daily Forward, Israelis were actually stunned by the speed with which the Obama administration moved.  He says “no one expected Obama to make his first phone calls in the Oval Office to Mahmoud Abbas and Ehud Olmert.”  Furthermore, “no one expected a Middle East envoy to be announced in the first three days in office and for this envoy to leave for the region within a week.”


    Nevertheless, Nathan Guttman says expectations for the success of the new U.S. envoy’s mission are not very high – either in Israel or in Washington.  He says this is because Palestinian leadership is divided between Hamas in the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, and because Israel is holding elections Feb. 10th that might result in a right-wing government.   However, Guttman says, “there is still a lot that [Ambassador] Mitchell can do – first, to help the cease-fire in the Gaza Strip and to make sure that the new agreement about stopping arms smuggling actually works.”  And he can set out “guidelines for both sides” regarding Israeli settlements and security issues.  In fact, he can do a lot without reaching a final status agreement, which, in Guttman’s words, “now seems to be very far away.”

    An Arab Perspective

    Nadia Bilbassy, senior correspondent with the Middle East Broadcasting Center (MBCTV), predicts the Obama administration will conduct the type of shuttle diplomacy not seen in the Middle East since the days of Henry Kissinger.  She notes that the priorities have already been outlined by Ambassador Mitchell and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – consolidating a shaky cease-fire and concentrating on humanitarian aid to people in Gaza because “they cannot start a peace process as long as the situation on the ground is very fragile.”
     
    Bilbassy also suggests that the prospect of a Likud government in Israel, led by former Prime Minister Netanyahu, could have a silver lining.  She says that some of her Israeli sources have told her that “Netanyahu does not want to be seen as the spoiler of the peace process and alienate a president [Obama] who is very popular in the world now, especially in the Muslim and Arab worlds.”  According to Bilbassy, Mr. Netanyahu might have to choose between prolonging the peace process, “as he did before,” – or negotiating.  She notes that the history of Israeli prime ministers shows that “you make peace with the right-wing governments in Israel and not the left wing.”  Bilbassy calls the current situation “very dynamic.”  In fact, the situation on the ground is the “gravest it has ever been” while the commitment of the U.S. government to peace in the Middle East appears “greater than it has ever been.”

    Obstacles on Both Sides

    Israeli journalist Nathan Guttman warns that – among some Israelis and some Palestinians – the pursuit of a peace agreement is not a priority.  “There are parties on both sides that wouldn’t like to see progress,” he explains.   But Guttman says there is a lot to be done without addressing some of the most difficult issues – “how the Palestinian Authority runs itself” and the “future of settlements on the West Bank.”

    The one thing on which all sides agree is that the road to a lasting peace in the region will be both long and difficult to negotiate.


    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.