On the threshold of fiasco
By Alex Maist
Interview with Dr. Sami Alrabaa
Can president of USA Barak Obami promote peace process in the Middle East and neutralize nuclear threat from Iran ? Should the West open dialogue with Syria, Hamas and the Hizballoh? Will the new government of Israel become an obstacle to the peace process?
Dr. Sami Alrabaa is a professor of sociology and an Arab/Muslim culture specialist. Before moving to Germany he taught at Kuwait University, King Saud University, and Michigan State University .
Q. President Obama considers peace process as a priority direction of his policy. How do you estimate the chances of peace process?
A. President Obama has proclaimed lots of priorities: economic, financial, nuclear, climatic, and peace in the Middle East . In the latter he will fail like his predecessors. He has to deal with numerous diehard players: Hamas, Hizbollah, Iran, Syria, etc. Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will not achieve anything. The only person who can make a change, a substantial change is someone like Yasser Arafat. After more than thirty years of political fanaticism and defiance, Arafat an undisputable leader among his people realized that he could have peace and a Palestinian state only at the negotiation table. This kind of leader is still missing among Palestinia! ns. I am pretty sure that Avigdor Liberman would love to conclude peace with such a leader, provided the latter recognized the right of Israel to exist.
Q. Could Mahmud Abbas keep the power on the West Bank in case of creation of the Palestinian state?
A. Mahmud Abbas is a weak leader. He has lost a big part of Arafat's power to Hamas. Hamas is "cancer" in the Palestinian body. Hamas, however, could change into a positive player if an "Arafat" takes over. For the time being this is unthinkable. Hamas needs maybe 2 or 3 decades to let this happen.
Q. Do you see connection between the peace process and the Iranian threat? Can possible agreement between Israel and Palestinians help to West to neutralize Iranian ambitions? Do you think that the Obama's administration can solve the Iranian problem better than Bush?
A. The same applies to Iran. Unless a moderate leader takes over, Iran will stay combative and rejectionist in terms of the Palestinian issue. The rise of a peace leader among the Palestinians could neutralize Iran's role in a peace process. The pressure that the world community, including Russia and China, is exerting on Iran with regard to its nuclear program can deter Iran from becoming a nuclear power. The nuclear program in both Iran and North Korea is a desperate attempt to keep the regimes alive in these countries.
Q. How do you estimate the Saudi initiative?
A. The Saudi regime has always played a hypocritical role in the Middle East . All its "initiatives" have been designed to serve its own interests and survival in the Middle East. The Saudis would endorse any solution that guarantees their survival.
Q. The new Minister for Foreign Affairs of Israel Avigdor Liberman declared that Israel will not respect decisions of conferences in Annapolis. How such position can influence the peace process and regional situation?
A. Avigdor Liberman is not less combative than Menachem Begin when it comes to secure the existence of Israel . He will accept any solution that safeguards this existence side by side with peaceful neighbors.
Q. Liberman is considered in the West as the extreme nationalist and an opponent of peace. What your opinion about this matter?
A. It is not true that Liberman is an opponent of peace. He is an "extreme nationalist" but only out of fear for saving Israel from being devoured by its aggressive, extreme nationalistic, and fanatic Islamist neighbors.
Q. There are disagreements in Jerusalem concerning the possibility of peace with Syria . Do you see real prospect of peace between Israel and Syria in close future?
A. At present and under the current circumstances, Syria would not conclude any peace with Israel. If this happened, Syria would risk antagonizing Iran, Hizbolla, Hamas, and Islamists worldwide. Bashar Al Assad is not Anwar Al Sadat, and he will not be. A peace agreement with Israel at present would be an act of suicide for the Baath regime in Damascus .
Q. Whether Egypt is interested in cooperation with Israel in a matter of Gaza blockade, according to your opinion?
A. The regime of Husni Mubarak of Egypt is not interested in a strong Hamas. It is, though, interested in keeping Hamas as a thorn to destabilize Israel. The Egyptians do approve of those tunnels through which Hamas smuggles arms into Gaza, but they are not interested in opening their borders with Gaza . The Egyptians are notorious for being two-faced. They tell Hamas and the Palestinians something and turn around and tell the Israelis something different. For the Egyptian regime and as well as for the other Arab regimes, the Palestinian issue remains a distraction for them so that they need not tackle the titanic problems which these regimes are facing.
Q. The USA, Great Britain and some other countries in the West are ready to talk with Hamas and the Hezbollah. Do you think such dialog can promote peace process?
A. Talking to Hamas is futile. Even George Mitchell, the Middle East envoy of President Obama, realized that and said that at the outset of his mission. Check out Hamas's Charter: http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/pdf/hamas_charter.pdf Hamas declares unequivocally that its aim is the destruction of Israel . And I do not think that Hamas will in the foreseeable future renounce that stand.
from the June 2009 Edition of the Jewish Magazine