A president who was inaugurated amid great hopes – generally and for the Middle East in particular – has seen his stock tumble in the intervening 21 months. Obama won great credit for making Israeli-Palestinian peace a priority on his very first day in office, declaring it a national security interest of the US, and for appointing the elder statesman of the Northern Ireland effort, George Mitchell, as his special envoy. Since then there have been crockery-throwing rows with the Israelis, and a nice speech in Cairo, but little tangible progress. The most Obama has to show for his labours is an opening round of direct talks between the two sides, currently on hold.Usually when people debate the Israel-Palestine conflict and the "peace process", there will be those prepared to see it as a proxy conflict between "the West" and the "Muslim World" without looking at the bleak reality of the bigger picture ( as if the psychopathogical conflict there was not intractable enough already ).
The reason is that the conflict between Israel and Palestine really is a proxy battleground between those powers who see the Middle East as a struggle for hegemony and influence. The USA backs Israel and the Iranians back Hamas and Hezbollah.
This is determined by the New Great Game for oil and gas, which the USA is ever more dependent upon to maintain its current standard of living no less than Israel is too. Iran backs Hamas and Hezbollah as it ramps up tensions in such a way as to discredit any regime change, most obviously its own.
The conflict between Israel and Palestine has its own long standing enmity, but it has become more intractable by the wider conflicts across the Middle East caused by the US presence in Arab lands like Saudi Arabia, where the rentier elite diverts discontent outwards through funding Islamist charities.
Again that reflects the US foreign policy of being so dependent upon Saudi oil and the hatred that US military bases cause across the region. As well as the fact that most people living under dictatorships do not benefit from that oil wealth. When tied together with Islamist ideology that causes endless problems
Unless the West can find alternatives to oil, the problems in the Middle East have no chance of a solution. Regimes feeling uncertain of quelling domestic discontent will ramp up hatred of Israel in order to gain domestic legitimacy. Israel depends on that to retain support from the US too.
Likewise Hamas has every interest in ratcheting up conflict by rocket attacks in order to get the disproportionate retaliation that will kill Palestinians, force Israel to become more ruthless and thus improve their standing over political rivals. So too Hezbollah.
The continued military presence of the US in the oil rich lands of the Arab states such as Saudi Arabia provides the reason for the resentment that leads to Islamist fanaticism and the cash that fuels it. Just as it did in Afghanistan in the war against the Soviet Union.
The bitter irony is that within Britain, those like George Galloway, a leader of Respect. extol the Palestinian cause and Islamist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah and gain great support whilst being fans of Arab nationalists like Colonel Nasser who was a secular nationalist who executed Islamists.
Naturally, Galloway is a dolt. But those supporting an increasingly large constituency of leftists and alienated and politically aware Muslims in Britain fail to realise the underlying conflicts lie mostly in the self interest of the various states in the region.
The USA is one of those along with Israel but so too are states like Iran, whose Press TV funds Galloway to mouth out about Palestine. That makes him merely a "useful idiot" but it points to a wider problem of proxy wars concerned with geopolitics and the West's over dependence upon oil.
The issue of oil dependency never gets much mention in the discussion about the potential to peace in the Middle East. One need only think about Bernard Lewis' "The Crisis of Islam" to realise that that the crisis is thought to be one of Islam more than Western dependency upon oil.
But ultimately the crisis between Israel and Palestine and the Middle East as a whole is based on the crisis between the need of these states to modernise and gain a measure of legitimacy by having control over their own oil wealth and moving towards an Islamic form of democracy.
That cannot be achieved by military invasions of states such as Iraq. But that war reflected the need to control the oil, of geostrategic desperation by the USA and Britain. It can only be achieved by the Western states reducing their dependence upon oil by investing money in R & D on alternatives.
The well intentioned liberal nuances and pieties of those like Freedman will fail to enlighten or gain support unless the nub of what is really at stake is addressed. Suffice it to say that few liberals ever grasp the dilemma because they talk about what the West must, can, should, ought to or must do.
Without first looking at the reality of what is at stake.
Without that we are condemned to perpetual conflict. Obama offers no greater solution because he is the leader of a nation no less dependent upon oil than Western Europe. But is leader of a nation that Europe cravenly hopes will protect it whilst remaining greedy for oil no less.
Facing it, always facing it, that's the way to get through. Face it."-Joseph Conrad.