Obama and His "Soft Power"

Barack Obama’s recent speach in Cairo, prolegomena of yesterday’s speech by Netanyahu in Israel, has provoked two types of reactions: those who consider that it marks the beginning of change in the Middle East and those that see it as a “do-goodism” that will crash against the implacable reality of the area. It is undeniable that the starting point is more than arduous. Maybe the only unanimous consensus surrounding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is that peace today is farther away than ever.

Obama called for Palestinians to end violence and for Israelis to put an end to illegal settlements. These are two previous conditions for “immediate negotiations”, but negotiate with whom? The civil war has left Palestinians divided and without an interlocutor. And negotiating what? Who or what is going to force Netanyahu to cede a hypothetic state or sovereignty to the Palestinians in the West Bank, with the threat that Hamas will do the same thing it did in Gaza in 2006? Who or what is going to force Hamas to recognize the existence of Israel, renounce violence and integrate itself in a common Palestinian government?

According to Obama, the tool for finding this distant peace will be diplomacy. The President seeks to implement a foreign policy to find a rapprochement between Arabs and Israelis and force the isolation of Iran, which scares everyone. The objective is to dissuade the ayatollahs from nuclear rearmament and cut the umbilical cord with Hezbollah and Hamas.

It is time to determine the facts behind the words and to determine whether the so-called “soft power” of Obama will be able to resolve what the “firm hand” of Bush was incapable of resolving. There is no doubt that the time to cite the Koran has run out and, sooner or later, Obama will have to tread on a callus or tighten some nuts if he wants to make any progress.

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