Thursday, December 11, 2008

Go Ahtisaari ?!?

Just have a look at some of the comments on two Ynet articles about Nobel Peace Prize winner Martti Ahtisaari ( click here, here; and also here ). I am sure hardly any of the commentators read the speech Mr Ahtisaari held yesterday, when he received his prize. One thing is for sure, most of the feedbackers - who often appear to live outside Israel/Palestine, by the way - do not give a damn about either Palestinians or Israelis, and would love to see the Palestinian/Arab-Israeli conflict continue ad infinitum. Otherwise, how can you explain comments such as these?
  • 'pro-Israel': "Why not look at Zimbabwe, there's already an outbreak of cholera there? Why not worry about N. Korea? There're many places around the world where people die in scores, hundreds, thousands daily and nobody cares. Everyone's pre-occupied with Israel only and her so-called victims in Gaza who look like they really need a supply of Slimfast there. Why are thousands of people in the world denied justice by do-gooders whose only aim is to bash Israel?"
  • 'pro-Palestinian': "YNE hes not published the core part of the interview, look for the clip and the interview on bbc news. In the most important part he says that us must begin to criticize the crimes of srael." (sic) ( I read both the acceptance speech and the interview that Mr Ahtisaari gave after he was named the Peace Prize winner, and also searched on the BBC website for any recent comments by him on Israel; I failed to find any such one-sided criticism by him ).

The only comment by the former president of Finland that could understandably anger Israel-supporters is his criticism of the Western boycott of Hamas and his implying that the West ( and Israel ) should talk to that organization. Like him, I do believe that you have to be blind and stubborn to want to ignore one of the most important players on the Palestinian side of the conflict. You do not have to like or agree with Hamas to understand and accept that they are part of the complex and sad Palestinian reality, and that that reality is part of our reality and has to be dealt with.

I agree with all that Mr Ahtisaari says in his acceptance speech. Two key phrases caught my attention: "All crises, including the one in the Middle East, can be resolved." and "If we want to achieve lasting results, we must look at the whole region." Particularly the latter phrase is important for Israel, since it says what Israel has often been saying: the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is part of a larger whole, and should be approached ( and will eventually be solved ) as such.

With Mr Obama having to focus on domestic problems before he will be able to seriously deal with the Middle East, maybe it would be a good idea for him - as one of the four members of the Middle East Quartet - to ask Mr Ahtisaari to help set up and operate some kind of comprehensive framework that will be aimed at finding a negotiated Palestinian/Arab-Israeli peace agreement. I cannot think of a more qualified and suitable candidate for such a job ( certainly not among those Nobel Peace Prize winners who are still alive ) than this man.

One additional advantage of using the services and expertise of Martti Ahtisaari is that his European contacts and background would help to enhance a European role in such a process, which I think would be a good thing. After all, Europe has even more interest in peace in the Middle East than the US, and Brussels has more carrots to offer both Israel and the Arab-Muslim world than Washington.

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