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Monday, 2 July, 2001, 07:14 GMT 08:14 UK
Middle East: Should the US do more?

US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, is beginning a visit to the Middle East on a mission to rescue the faltering ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians.

Mr Powell's visit has prompted fears among some American politicians that the US is returning to the shuttle diplomacy which the Bush administration had hoped to avoid.

Others say Washington could do more - former US senator George Mitchell has urged President Bush to invite the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, to Washington.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has warned that the region could witness "horrible terrorism" if Washington does not push for a solution to the violence.

Can the US make a difference? Should the US do more?

This Talking Point is now closed. Your comments are posted below.

If the imbalance was redressed a more meaningful dialogue could take place Idris, UK The US has done little for the region over the long term, other than prop up a morally bankrupt Israeli regime, whose human rights record compares with any of the so called "rogue" states. While US support remains so one-sided, there is little chance of a sustainable agreement being brokered by them. The mess in which the region finds itself, though to a great extent self-perpetuating, owes a lot to the US arming the Israelis to the hilt. Whatever the world says, Israel pays no heed as they are fully capable of defending themselves against the pathetic forces of their immediate neighbours. If the imbalance was redressed a more meaningful dialogue could take place, just negotiation takes place between equals.
Idris, UK

The Palestinians have tried all diplomacies including help from the world body, the UN, only to be disappointed by the world's only arrogant super power. Yes, the US has a moral obligations to do more. It is time to realize that those on the other side of the equation are also human, although they might not be from the Judeo-Christian religion.
Mohammed Buhari, Ghana

I have no idea how was this false belief that the USA is a one sided supporter of Israel was created, but in any case - it is nonsense. The USA's support for Arab dictatorships is far greater than its support for the Israeli democracy. It was an Arab dictatorship (Kuwait) that the US sent its army to defend (against another Arab aggressor dictator) and Arab countries as Jordan, Egypt etc. are almost fully financially dependent on the US (not to mention the Palestinian Authority). I wish the US or anyone else could do anything to help us to achieve peace but as long as out-reached hand is rejected neither the Americans nor anyone else can do anything to assist. I only hope that one day the world would stop legitimising terror by calling Israel's struggle to survive "violation of human rights". Then, maybe, would some mediation may be effective.
Tomer Schwartz, Israel (currently - UK)

The US should take honest and unbiased measures, for a change, to help enforce UN resolutions concerning the conflict in the Middle East and not use its veto power every time Israel is threatened with having to obey international law. Had an Arab country behaved in the manner that Israel has for the past 52 years, this country would have faced sanctions if not the wrath of the US forces.
Nabil, Washington D.C., USA

Until everyone learns to respect each other's religions and beliefs there will continue to be bloodshed throughout the world. I believe that the US is doing the right thing by attempting to stabilise the region. I am curious as to why Europe feels it can bash the US for being world policeman? Would you rather have anarchy reign? If Europe would actually put forth half the effort the US does in attempting to have world peace, I bet this planet would be a better place to live. I don't believe the question should be - should the US do more but can Europe do anything? As global partners we can make the world a better place. Stop talking and start helping.
Kris, USA

There will never be peace when two groups keep hitting back at each other, with such contempt It seems like they are going through their own negative group karma and have not learnt yet what peace and forgiveness means. This is very hard to change especially when children are growing up with guns in their hands.
Leila Khoury, British

It would be better for humanity if the US stays well away from this. If the US cannot resolve the problem then there is no point in helping only one side either.
F Cummins, UK

We must translate our rhetoric into actions in the Middle East

I believe interventions from powerful third parties like the USA and EU will always be necessary to resolve the crisis in the Middle East. But for the West, should the promotion of human rights not be at the centre of all our peace efforts? This issue I feel has been largely ignored by the world powers. Yet the leading human rights organisations are continuously raising their concerns. We must translate our rhetoric into actions in the Middle East if we are to achieve lasting peace.

You cannot force something that will not come naturally. Peace cannot be mandated by an outside element. To try such, will fail miserably - case in point Clinton's policies. Until the Israelis and Palestinians alike want peace and back that ambition with peaceful action, no one can do anything substantial there.
Stephen, US

UN troops should be sent in. Whilst I agree that Palestinians have inhabited the region for many generations, it should also be recognised that Israel/Palestine/Whatever you want to call it is the historical Jewish homeland. But both sides are equally to blame for the current violence and the only way to stop this is to disarm both Israelis and Palestinians and adopt a zero-tolerance policy towards anyone inciting trouble.
Alex, UK

The USA has done nothing convincing in order to oblige both sides to obey agreements

R. El Nagar, Spain
Frankly speaking, the USA has done nothing true or convincing in order to oblige both sides, Arabs and Israelis, to obey, fulfil and carry out agreements signed and that might be signed. I think that they are very capable of forcing both sides to sit and negotiate till they come to a definite agreement, taking ALL TIME necessary.
R.El Nagar, Spain

Simon G makes mention that over five million Palestinian refugees scattered all over the planet demand the right to return to their homes in Palestine. He has forgotten that the Jewish population were forcefully removed from 'Israel' and scattered all over the world a very long time ago and want to return home also. The Right of Return surely applies to both Palestinians and the Israelis. The problem is that both sides do not have enough land to settle on.
Paul Jonas, UK

Georgie does not speak for the majority of Americans I know, when he says things like, "Today is my opportunity to once again look him in the eye and tell him he's got no better friend than the United States". Georgie needs to arm the Palestinians as well Israel and let them work it out.
Mitch, USA

Everyone except Israel seems to recognise that Israel is a US client state

Peter Nelson, USA
The US could do more by simply not automatically rubber-stamping everything Israel does. Everyone except Israel seems to recognise that Israel is a US client state. We take the heat and security risks that go with providing military, economic, and diplomatic support for Israel. So we should start pulling the strings that go with that. Israel needs to be reminded which side their bread is buttered on.
Peter Nelson, USA

The USA is the only country capable of solving this problem in the Middle East. So, if the USA can't help broker peace then certainly no country on the planet can. The European countries are not respected in the Middle East. They are too weak.
Tom, Canada

Should the US or the EU step in and hammer out a peace? Not until Sharon and Arafat actually want peace. Not until the Israelis and the Palestinians finally say "enough is enough". They talk and talk, but they never say anything.
Michael, Canada

It is high time for neutral nations to play a more active role in achieving peace

Ken Bhandary, USA
Due to the passionate support given by the United States to Israel since its creation in 1948, it is viewed suspiciously by the Muslim world in general and the Arabs in particular. US may have the best intentions in mind and might work tirelessly towards a peace accord but any plan brokered by it will always be met with strong resistance. It is high time for neutral nations like India, Argentina, and Switzerland - whom both parties trust - to play a more active role in achieving peace.
Ken Bhandary, USA

US involvement is critical to attaining a lasting peace. The EU bias towards the Palestinians is balanced with US support for Israel. True peace will come when the settlements are stopped and there is some arbitration about Jerusalem. However, if Mr.Arafat is unable to control his own militants this will be viewed as a sign of weakness; a lack of political currency to negotiate the deal.
Dave, Canada

It is a simple fact that most Americans are not well informed about the situation. But those of us who are do not see the logic of constantly backing Israel, the nation that continues to blatantly antagonise the Palestinians. I mean, everyone knows that Israel could do more to solve the problem in the Middle East - first stop creating settlements in the face of Palestinians. As for US intervention, it needs to give way to European intervention which is far more fair. Let France and England be the mediators - they do a better job.
Marcus Lloyd, United States

The involvement of the US is not making matters any better

Abdillahi Awad Egeh, Liverpool, UK
Are we not kidding ourselves when we say "can the US make a difference in the Middle-East?" Of course, the US is and has always been making a great deal of difference in that troubled part of the world by aiding and abating aggression; by ignoring the plight of civilians and by constantly using its power of veto when it seems the outcome might not be so favourable to Israel. No one in his right mind condones the tragic loss of life that is daily taking place and is continuously fuelling the ever-increasing hatred between the two sides, yet the reality is the arbitration and the involvement of the US is not making matters any better.
Abdillahi Awad Egeh, Liverpool, UK

While it is true that the US is avowedly pro-Israel, the EU swings too far in the opposite direction by giving the Palestinian and Israeli actions moral equivalence. The world was finally shocked by the callous massacre of dozens of teenagers at a nightclub. Until this final act, Europeans were content to believe that Israel's accidental, collateral civilian casualties were equivalent to the civilians murdered by suicide bombings. Europe also forgets that Israel annexed the Palestinian lands after being invaded by Arab countries for the second time in as many decades. While Palestinians live in deplorable conditions in Gaza and the West Bank, those living across the border in a fellow Arab country called Jordan suffer far more wretched conditions.

The U.S. supports Israel as a staunch ally through difficult times. It is also the only democracy in the area. (Don't be confused, "presidents" there are not elected). While both sides have sunk to lows, moral relativity hardly seems a position Europe should espouse.
Sascha, USA

Over five million Palestinian refugees scattered all over the planet demand the right to return to their homes in Palestine! The Right of Return has a solid legal basis. The United Nations adopted Resolution 194 on December 11, 1948. Paragraph 11 states: "...the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date... compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return." The United Nations and the International Community have a legal and moral obligation towards the realisation of the Right Of Return.
Simon G., England

The US needs to stop funding Israel, period!

Yes the US should force the Israelis to evacuate their settlements but only after it acknowledges that it itself is an illegal settlement on someone's else land and starts planning its own evacuation back to Britain. What an hypocrisy!
A, Belgium

The US has been facilitating this process since the historical Camp David agreement between Egypt and Israel under the Carter administration. So, Bush has to carry on where Clinton left off, otherwise the Norwegians have played their part. The US Government should caution Arafat and Sharon that there is no perfect time for peace other than now.
Amani, Jordan

There are no solutions, only pauses. I know, I have lived through it.
Guslav, Republic of Croatia

The left automatically blames Bush for everything, but Clinton proved it's not worth it to try to force the parties to agree. Let's stand aside for a while (or forever). Nothing will happen until the two parties decide to be civilized, and that might be 100 years from now. I don't think the US should apologise for getting involved when (and only when) its commercial interests are at stake. I don't care about the Middle East unless the oil stops flowing, and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict doesn't directly involve that.
Tom, USA

A mediator must remain neutral to be successful

Sharif Nashashibi, UK
The US should do more to moderate its staunch and reckless pro-Israel bias. Only then will its involvement be credible and welcome to the Arab world, and constructive toward a just regional peace. The US has forgotten that a mediator must remain neutral to be successful.
Sharif Nashashibi, UK

As an American, I agree with Jamil Farah's comments. We used to explain our defence of Israel because it was the only "democracy" in the Middle East. It looks more and more like a rogue state with its treatment of an indigenous minority. In order to do something constructive, we must immediately stop coddling the Israelis and hold them to all agreements made. We should also work in conjunction with the EU to pressure them to accept the unthinkable: the administration of Jerusalem as an international city. Given that three faiths comprising billions of people look to Jerusalem as their spiritual capital, I don't see why it should be under the control of a few million.

The world's guilt over the Holocaust should not have led to this. The Jewish people need to live in peace, unmolested and in security - they have suffered far too much throughout their history. However, that suffering no excuse for successive Israeli governments to hold us all hostage. The US should slowly back away whilst helping the EU to slowly inch in, reaching some level of equilibrium. From that point, we can use our slightly differing positions to achieve maximum results.
Michael Dundon, USA

Yes, the US could do more and a starting point would to do less, i.e., stop financing the Israeli military.

I think that the US can't get involved as a peace broker as the rest of the world knows who they favour. Let the French or English be the peace brokers at least they are known for there fairness.
Joe Vick, Canada

No, the US should do less. People seem to forget that the current situation was brought about by the Clinton administrations attempt at getting a rushed settlement so he could have a better legacy. Maybe Europe could do more. It always strikes me as preposterous when Europeans self-righteously condemn the US for the creation on Israel. Israel was created;1) by Europeans, through the British partition of Palestine,2) because of Europeans, the mass Jewish exodus after the Holocaust, and 3) for Europeans, most of the Jewish settlers were from Europe. If you Europeans want to see who is to blame, take a look in the mirror.
Tom Hoffman, USA

I agree with A. Cover. It's a religious conflict which by virtue of that fact will preclude any rational solution. Let the parties involved worry about it.
Hmid Sanders, USA

With President Bush, the US lost its direction on many issues, and is not willing to assume leadership. Like on the issue of environmental pollution, President Bush demonstrates short-sightedness on political developments. Whilst the situation in the Middle East has been getting out of hand, he seems to be content to wait, expecting the parties themselves to become ready for negotiations. His rare initiatives cannot be claimed to be unbiased.
Mehmet E Asim, UK

Here we go again. The US would prefer to stay out of the peace brokering business but isn't allowed to. It's a darned if you do/darned if you don't situation. If we don't get involved we'll be criticised and if we do - well, let's not go there. If I recall my history correctly, the United Kingdom was directly involved in the development and support of Israel and the situation we are now faced with. Let the Blair government get involved and do something constructive to help Palestine.
Di Stewart, USA

It is ironic that the US is going out on peace missions to the Middle East, considering it is probably the cause of much of the region's problems. Perhaps it can start initiating peace by halting arms exports to Israel, the country which has launched massive and relentless aggression onto the Palestinians.
Daniel Brett, UK

No, the U.S. should do less and save its diplomatic capital. Both sides want the U.S. to make their peace for them instead of themselves doing it. Too bad for all around there isn't an Anwar Sadat available.
T.J. Cassidy, U.S.A.

Maybe the US should do less, better yet nothing.
Martin, England

I do not know how much more the US can do to promote peace in the Mid-East. We have sent Israel helicopter gunships, helped them to attain the only nuclear weapons arsenal in the region and award them an annual stipend of billions of dollars each year. Our congress has repeatedly called upon the Palestinians to end their stone-throwing violence against the Israeli occupation army but all this to no avail. In time, US patience as being an "honest broker" in the Peace Process will wear out then there will be little hope for an end to this problem.
Stephen B, USA

You will never get peace in that area, because no side really wants to give any quarter

Ron Kirk, New Zealand
The US should do less in the Middle East. It has already stirred up Islamic militancy against the West, with the punitive trade sanctions on the Iraqi people as well as massive military aid to the aggressive Israeli state. Peace has never been created by the US, only broken. Ordinary people have only known misery as a result of US intervention. The Middle East must not continue to be the US's backyard, where its soldiers and politicians can play a deadly game of power politics. It cannot simply use its military might to enforce its interests in the oil industry.
Ahmed Mahbous, Saudi Arabia

George W Bush does not strike me as the type of personality best served to pacify a major conflict.
Rory McKnight, UK

The US has already done far too much, hence the catastrophic situation we have now.
Jon, Basingstoke, UK

If it could, the US should do less. If the US and the rest of the world kept out of it and stopped subsidising at ALL levels, the opposing parties in the region, then maybe they will feel forced to sort out their differences.
Andrew Cover, UK

The US has already done far too much, hence the catastrophic situation we have now

Jon, Basingstoke, UK
Americans gained their independence in a revolution because they did not want to pay taxes to England. The Palestinians have had their land stolen, their water stolen, groves and houses destroyed, are denied the means to make a living, get to hospital, or go to university. Yet they are the ones being called terrorists. Now the US is demanding that Palestinian dissidents be arrested without charges or trial, something they vehemently condemn anywhere else in the world. America, particularly your hypocrites in Congress, wake up. Palestine is where you were in 1776 with a greater cause than you had.
Bernard Marcazzo, France

Should the US do more? No. We should stay out of it. The conflict is ongoing because of the American's one-sided support for Israel and token support for the Palestinians. Here's an idea, how about the Palestinians and other Arab's do more. If they really want their country back, let them take it. And if they can't take it back, then accept the situation and stop whining. Everyone's getting real tired of these ethnic conflicts. Either put up, or shut up.

As long as Dubya leaves it to the professionals in his administration and doesn't get involved himself. "Palestine? Is that in Minnesota?" etc...
Mark B, UK

The whole world can have a major cause of conflict between the Muslim and Western worlds resolved by insisting Israel reverses its colonisation and eviction of Palestinians in taking "Settlement" land. This is the essence of the festering sore infecting the world since 1967. Before the West was not the enemy of the Muslim world, and there was no terrorism and fundamentalism. With the resolution of the Settlement lands issue and Eastern Jerusalem, with the whole Western world guaranteeing Israel's security irrevocably as the price, major tension in the world can be defused. This is what the US should promote.
Raj Curry, UK

I have watched from afar the problems in the Middle East. You will never get peace in that area, because no side really wants to give any quarter. All these so called words of shuttle diplomacy are utter rhetoric, all the handshakes and photo calls, meetings and dialogue are meaningless unless there is a complete willingness on all sides to strike a permanent peace. There will either be a bloodbath in the Middle East or things will stay much the same. No amount of diplomacy will stave off the slings and arrows that is the Middle East's problem. I hope for humanity's sake I am wrong.
Ron Kirk, New Zealand

The American Government has no role to play as an arbiter of world affairs

Peter, Canada
The US should do the following:
-Press both parties to respect international law. That would include, among other things, recognising each other's borders on the basis of resolution 242, respect of all UN resolutions including the partition and the right of return and compensation for refugees.
- Stop selling weapons and giving any military and economic aid to Israel as long as it doesn't abide by International Law.
- Stop using veto systematically in order to defend Israel.
- Encourage the creation of a war crime tribunal (such as the one in Arusha, visited by former President Clinton).
Until then, the United States cannot reasonably claim to be an honest peace broker.
Jamil Farah, Paris, France

The mediator needs at least to be seen neutral. However, most Arabs see the US as a strong ally to Israel, and rightly so. Therefore, although more American involvement may result in a quiet period, as it did in the last decade, I can't see it solving the Middle-East problem. Furthermore, the lack of democracy in the Arab world, means that securing the agreement of Arab leaders, wouldn't necessarily reflect the feelings of the population. It is a fact that most Arabs (population) see the US as responsible for the way Israel is behaving.
Jennifer, England

We should not run to the US expecting them to resolve every crisis across the globe whenever one arises. Naturally any nation should use whatever influence it has to resolve these conflicts, but it's not fair to place the burden on their shoulders. But remember that the only people who can really solve the problems of the Middle East, are the people of the Middle East. All the Americans can do is encourage and facilitate a peaceful solution, something all of us (including Europe) should be doing anyway.
Michael Gahan, Ireland

The American Government has no role to play as an arbiter of world affairs. Time and again the US has shown that it gets involved only when its commercial interests are concerned. While a widespread war in the Middle East is a concern, Israel and the Palestinian lands do not have this precious resource. Hence the American involvement in this ongoing conflict has been, at best, haphazard. I would not look to the Americans to solve this problem. Furthermore, in a larger sense, I think it solves little for foreign powers to attempt to solve the violent squabbles of recalcitrant nations such as these. The US, no more than the UK, France or any other great power, is not "daddy" to the world. And, even if it was, there is no reason to believe that, once American attention is focussed elsewhere, the problem will not flare up anew.
Peter, Canada

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See also:

27 Jun 01 | Middle East
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Analysis: US changes tack on Mid-East
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Analysis: Annan's Middle East progress
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