Hopes fade for Middle East peace

IF BILL CLINTON saves his presidency, he will have lost the Middle East. For he has thrown away any chance of pushing Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to make a deal with the Palestinians. He has lost any hope of persuading the Arabs to support his campaign against Iraq. He has let go any prospect of convincing the Egyptians or the Saudis or the Syrians of accepting Washington's brokership of the "peace process". The Arab-Israeli crisis is now in free fall.

For what has the American president done to keep the peace in the Middle East? He has reiterated his declaration of war against "terror" - what he calls the "threat to all humankind". Yet not a word has he uttered against the Israeli threat to annex the Israeli-occupied West Bank. No strategy has he devised against Saddam Hussein's refusal to cooperate with UN inspectors. No message of support has he provided for President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, who remains the most powerful Arab voice for peace.

And thus no wonder is it that Egypt plans to honour its 1973 victory over the Israelis at the Suez Canal rather than the 1981 Camp David peace accord. No surprise that he can find no UN members to take "drastic measures" against Iraq - and no chance that the Arab world is prepared to trust the Oslo agreement which has allowed Israel to build more Jewish settlements on Arab land. Osama bin Laden, in the heights of Afghanistan, must have been convinced - watching the videotape of Bill Clinton's testimony - that his war against the United States can be won without a fight.

Yasser Arafat, the PLO chairman, says that he will proclaim a Palestinian state next year (albeit that this will be the second time he has declared such a nation) - and Mr Netanyahu is now saying that Mr Arafat's declaration would "annul the [Oslo] accords". According to the Palestinian Authority, this would be a "declaration of war".

So stand by for Israel's reconquest of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. As for Iraq, we have only to listen to Martin Indyk, US assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs. "Today, outside the United States," he said last week, "not a single country in the world is calling for the use of force to respond to Saddam Hussein's latest refusal to co-operate."

Mr Mubarak is meanwhile planning a lavish celebration of the Egyptian crossing of the Suez canal a quarter of a century ago - complete with artistic, cultural and sporting events, the minting of special coins marking the Egyptian military victory, army bands, fireworks and the gathering of 20,000 military personnel and families of those killed in the 1973 Middle East war. The Egyptian warship which sank the Israeli destroyer Eilat will also participate in the celebrations.

As Mohamed Sayed Said, deputy director of the Al-Ahram strategic studies centre in Cairo, says: "Arab public opinion ... wants to erase the memory of Camp David because of its extreme distaste for the totally unjust policies of the United States and Israel towards the Arabs."

In Damascus, the government daily newspaper Al-Thawra is saying what many millions of Arabs believe, however odd (or exotic) the theory may seem in the West: that Monica Lewinsky was working for the Israeli intelligence organisation Mossad, tasked to destroy American pressure on Mr Netanyahu to abide by the Oslo accords.

When the scandal broke, Ms Lewinsky, who is Jewish, stated publicly that she hoped it would not harm US relations with Israel. In the event, it has rendered Clinton so impotent that Washington would not dare oppose Israeli plans to enlarge Jewish settlements on Arab land - and thus contribute to the destruction of the Oslo agreement.

And what did Mr Clinton offer two days ago? An "anti-terror" pact - the thrust of his UN speech on Monday - that, while denying a Western- Islamic conflict, made it clear that the West's supposed enemies in the world were Muslim.

His speech, word for word, has been closely studied here, especially the following words: "False prophets may use and abuse any religion to justify whatever political objectives they have, even cold-blooded murder. Some may have the world believe that almighty God himself, the merciful, grants a licence to kill - that is not our understanding of Islam."

But the very word "Islam" showed what Mr Clinton was thinking about. The Arabs remember how, after the Israeli massacre at Qana in 1996 - a "tragic error" according to the Israelis themselves - the US president called the slaughter a "tragedy", as if it were some natural disaster. The tomb of the Israeli murderer of 29 Palestinians at the Hebron mosque is now a shrine - but this had no place in Mr Clinton's UN speech. True, he said there should be no "dividing line" between Muslims, Jews, Protestants, Catholics, Serbs and Albanians - an interesting list since it suggested that Serbs were not Christians and Albanians were not Muslims - but in the Middle East, the message was clear: Muslim rather than non-Muslim men of violence were the world's enemies.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower