Saving Obama The Undecider’s Middle East peace efforts with the ‘Jenin (BLAIR) Way’

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    13th November, 2009



    The Middle East peace process, although primarily around Israel and the Palestinians, is echoed pointedly in Obama’s “dithering” over the Afghan troops decision.

    First, on advice from the generals on the ground, he was thinking of sending 40,000 more troops. Then someone suggested 30,000. Somebody else thought 20,000 was a nice round number. Then again, another adviser proffered that 10,000-15,000 might do. Yet another wise guy thought he shouldn’t send any at all!  Into the last of these categories, with the argument that the Afghan government is too corrupt for more troops to be effective right now anyway, falls  the US commander–turned ambassador General Karl Eikenberry, now the US ambassador to Afghanistan.


    McChrystal and Eikenberry

    Eikenberry’s views are in direct contrast to the views of his successor, the current US and Nato commander, General Stanley McChrystal who wants up to 40,000 more troops as soon as possible. (See Telegraph)

    Meanwhile the Iranian president, Ahmadinejad has told Obama that he has to choose between Iran and Israel. I have heard no reports of Obama’s response to this challenge. Perhaps he’s still trying to decide.

    Obama seems to have allowed himself the “as long as it takes” approach to the Middle East. But in contrast to his predecessor, what HE means by that is as long as HE takes to decide. There seems to have been no end date set for the decision-making process. This ‘process’, if there IS, one has been so prolonged that there is now dissention all round. This is not helpful to the cause, but it IS helpful to our enemies.

    Thank you, Mr Obama.

    But we should recognise that there are people who think it is right for Obama to take as long as he needs. Such people hark back to decisions made in the past about going to war, as though this is a NEW war and a NEW decision. Their argument is that decisions were made in the past TOO quickly. Well, I recall that the decision to invade Afghanistan took months after 9/11, when many of us expected it within a few days or weeks.

    Some of us have never been convinced that Obama was the answer to all the world’s problems. Many who were so convinced are beginning to have serious doubts. Clearly, he has a lot on his Middle East plate.

    When Tony Blair announced he was standing down, in May of 2007, he said this, with evident reference to Iraq: “People will forgive a wrong decision. They will not forgive failing to decide.”

    Iain Martin at Wall Street blogs asks – When on earth will Obama make a decision?


    He has been President for 10 months now and still the world waits. What will eventually emerge? The semi-surge of 30,000 troops with full deployment not for at least a year looks like his favoured option. Or at least it did when it seemed he was going to make a long overdue decision. Now? Who knows?

    The danger is that this drift erodes allied confidence and strengthens the hand of those who want America and Britain defeated in Afghanistan. Enemies such as the Taliban are able to smell weakness, and so are America’s allies. In Britain the war effort is misfiring, as the public grows disenchanted over casualties. A strong lead from the U.S. might still change the situation, but one starts to doubt it after this latest delay.

    So where does Blair come into all of this?



    “Obituaries for the hope generated by his election are being written in Arabic, Hebrew and English”

    Barack Obama Benjamin Netanyahu Mahmoud Abbas

    Barack Obama with Binyamin Netanyahu (left) and Mahmoud Abbas (right) in New York in September. Photograph: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

    Barack Obama seems to have failed dismally in his first sustained attempt to show he is serious about making peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Obituaries for the hope generated by his election, peaking in his Cairo speech in June, are being written in Arabic, Hebrew, and English. For those who never believed that even Obama could succeed where Bill Clinton failed in the final days of his presidency, this was a death foretold.”


    Tony Blair is changing the position on the ground in the West Bank. This is actually not new, although he has been hailed there this week for business, including opening an important crossing & telephony advances. The picture below was taken 18 months ago in Jenin. His popularity amongst local Palestinians is clear to see. He is surrounded by hundreds whose lives had already changed thanks to his input. And,  guess what – none of them tried to shoot him!


    Tony Blair surrounded by crowds in a peaceful Jenin market, May 7th 2008. The contrast with the earlier state of this town was remarkable. Blair was thought safe enough to mix with hundreds of the locals.

    Tony Blair surrounded by crowds in a peaceful Jenin market, May 7th 2008. The contrast with the earlier state of this town was remarkable. Blair was thought safe enough to mix with hundreds of the locals.

    A few months later he was pictured here on 7th October 2008, at a water pump construction also in Jenin. I wrote about this here in November 2008. This was just as Bush was about to hand-over to Obama, so clearly that hand-over period lost valuable time and momentum. Such is the clunking of the democratic process.


    Tony Blair October 2008, at waterpump construction in Jenin

    When Tony Blair first took on his present envoy post in the Middle East he made it clear that change on the ground was needed alongside the peace process.

    MIDEAST: New Face of Palestine, Now Showing (source)

    By Jerrold Kessel and Pierre Klochendler

    From article below:

    “What may save the Obama peace effort is ‘the Jenin Way’.

    Jenin has been created as the prime model of how a stable and viable Palestinian state will look and function. Over the past two years it’s been nurtured in that direction under the combined political tutelage of Tony Blair and the military tutelage of U.S. General Keith Dayton.

    Now, Abbas’s Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is planning to take the Jenin Way further.”

    JERUSALEM, Nov 12 (IPS) – Other than to movie aficionados, the refurbishing of an old cinema hall is no cause for great excitement.

    Except in Jenin where an old-new cinema is proving to be quite a landmark.

    Only a few years ago at the vanguard of Palestinian resistance to the Israeli occupation, this northern West Bank town is now the model of a refurbished Palestine.

    It’s no coincidence that the man at the heart of that process, special international envoy and former British prime minister Tony Blair, was there this week.

    Following a walkabout in the Jenin city centre, Blair declared, “The Palestinian economy on the West Bank is growing strongly,” though he added, “obviously it’s also important we find a way to re-launch the political negotiations.”

    In 2002, at the height of the Intifadah, a fierce Israeli crackdown on the uprising razed large chunks of the Jenin refugee camp. Even after, the town was notorious for its lawlessness; local armed militants even challenged Yasser Arafat’s legendary authority.

    Now, the militants are nowhere to be seen – they’ve handed in their weapons; many have become part of the Palestinian Authority police.

    Instead, Jenin’s streets are filled with Arab Israeli shoppers who are now even permitted to drive through Israel’s Jalameh crossing point to reach the town market.

    Also, to look in at the old-new movie theatre, closed in 1987 during the first Intifadah, but now scheduled to re-open within months.

    Meanwhile, away in Washington, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was reportedly trying to convince President Barack Obama that long before the first screening, he’d be ready to do “his utmost” to induce the Palestinian Authority back to the peace table.

    The outcome of Tuesday night’s White House meeting remains shrouded in mystery. At the behest of the Administration it had all the trappings of a semi-clandestine encounter.

    Even usually compliant Israeli TV correspondents travelling with Netanyahu were reduced to reporting that, “We still don’t know whether the Prime Minister was genuine when we’re told he told the President he’d offer the Palestinians major concessions, or whether he’s genuine when he tells his nationalist supporters at home that they’ve nothing to worry about.”

    Netanyahu aides are adamant. They say the Prime Minister has been under pressure from his right-wing coalition partners to conduct a peace process “for the sake of process” whereas, maintain the aides, Netanyahu himself argues “we genuinely need to try to reach an agreement.”

    Either way, it’s still not clear whether the Israeli leader has convinced Obama that he means peace business.

    What is clear on the other hand, is that the President’s much-vaunted Middle East peace initiative is in serious trouble.

    Obama is stuck at a crossroad of dead-end avenues: down one avenue, advice to back off from trying to solve the conflict until the parties themselves want to do so; down another, advice to pressure an Israeli leader perceived as intent on spurning his peace effort; and now down a third, his own advice to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas not to resign.

    Last week, Abbas threatened he would not seek re-election unless Israel agrees to a total freeze of its settlement activities, thereby fulfilling his condition to return to the peace table.

    What may save the Obama peace effort is ‘the Jenin Way’.

    Jenin has been created as the prime model of how a stable and viable Palestinian state will look and function. Over the past two years it’s been nurtured in that direction under the combined political tutelage of Tony Blair and the military tutelage of U.S. General Keith Dayton.

    Now, Abbas’s Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is planning to take the Jenin Way further.

    In late August Fayyad presented the international community with a detailed plan for building up Palestinian Authority institutions. He also set a timetable of up to two years for implementation of the plan.

    Fayyad’s plan was initially accorded a positive reaction by the Israeli government, stressing as it did institution-building and efficient security services.

    But, Israeli intelligence reports indicated that Fayyad actually had more in mind.

    The Palestinian Prime Minister has reportedly won a secret understanding from the U.S. Administration that, in the event of peace talks failing to get off the ground or reaching an impasse, the U.S. would recognise an independent Palestinian state within the pre-1967 borders, even if unilaterally declared.

    The well-informed Tel Aviv daily Haaretz reports that when Israel learnt that support for such a Palestinian move was also gathering in Europe and at the UN, Netanyahu, in advance of his Washington trip, asked for a U.S. guarantee that it would veto such a unilateral Palestinian declaration of independence.

    During the past four decades, the U.S. has made it abundantly clear that it does not back an Israeli future in the occupied Palestinian lands, and that Israel’s settlement enterprise is illegal and should be stopped. For the past decade, the U.S. has also backed the creation of a Palestinian state as part of a negotiated two-state solution.

    The U.S. has yet, however, to put on the table its own explicit border plan.

    In the event of another dead-end at the peace table, Obama might well be enticed, say analysts, to himself turn down the unilateral way.

    That worries Israel.

    Wariness that the Administration might eventually lay down such a plan is what might have prompted Netanyahu’s sudden panicky talk of readiness for “serious concessions”. (END/2009)

    As the Deputy Israeli PM said yesterday “we’ll miss Blair BUT we need him in the EU”. With Abbas’s Prime Minister Salam Fayyad planning to take the Jenin Way further, he was clearly NOT talking for only ONE side in the region.




    The president’s national security team is said to be coalescing around a proposal to send 30,000 or more additional troops to Afghanistan. As diplomats and officials differ Ian Black at The Guardian says that Obama has failed to resuscitate the Middle East peace process.

    Obama seems to be blowing in the wind, as he grapples with the latest opinion that lands on his desk. (envoy says no more troops until Afghan government sorted out). Tough being president, isn’t it, Mr Obama?

    And here the US president is said to want revisions on ALL four options put to him at yesterday’s war council meeting. There is an interesting date quoted here in this excerpt:

    Obama is still expected to send in more troops to bolster a deteriorating war effort.

    He remains close to announcing his revamped war strategy — troops are just one component — and probably will do so shortly after he returns from a trip to Asia that ends Nov. 19.

    PURELY CO-INCIDENTAL of course that on the 19th November, we will know who is the President of the EU. Will the Jenin Way, aka The Blair Way, be the way forward for Afghanistan?




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    3 Responses to “Saving Obama The Undecider’s Middle East peace efforts with the ‘Jenin (BLAIR) Way’”

    1. Little Ole American Says:

      You see very clearly from way across the pond. I would only add one more thing to the “indecision process” (yes, it has become a “process”), and that would be the wasted efforts and time of the President and Congress on the health reform. Priorities seem to be upside down in this administration.

      • keeptonyblairforpm Says:

        Priorities, priorities … and all that stuff, Arlene!

        For those of us outside of the USA you can understand why we are a little more concerned about your president’s foreign policy than about his domestic policies. Particularly since a state-supported (by taxes) health service is what many of us (all in Europe) are used to.

        On the other hand Obama’s foreign policy could be the end of us all if he doesn’t get it right. In that case, hospitals and health care will be superfluous.

        So far the omens aren’t good, imho.

        To add to this the treatment of the 9/11 suspected terrorists in a civilian trial looks like the liberal left gone crazy. How can they be tried as civilians with all the rights that this will entail – rights they did not give to their victims – when America is still engaged in a war which THESE animals are suspected of having instigated by their terrorism?

        On Obama – me? Not impressed. Naive.

    2. Melanie Phillips & her quandary over Tony Blair « Tony Blair Says:

      […] Saving Obama: The Undecided’s ME peace efforts, with the Jenin/Blair way […]

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