Friday, June 26, 2009

An earthquake deferred?

An earthquake deferred
Institute for Middle East Understanding;, Jun 25, 2009

An interview with Mahdi Abdul Hadi
-Mahdi Abdul Hadi is head of the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs, PASSIA

bitterlemons: What relevance does the turmoil in Iran have for the Palestinian street?

Abdul Hadi: It has both direct and indirect relevance to the Palestinian cause. I believe there are three major regional players who are directly and indirectly affecting the Palestinian street. These effects have been observed very closely in recent elections in Turkey, Israel and Iran and all have different impacts on the Palestinian-Israeli.

In Turkey, the rise of the Islamists and the corresponding position of the army was a signal as to how political Islam can be accommodated in a secular framework. Alongside this, the public relations battle during the Gaza war, when Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan confronted Israeli President Shimon Peres in Davos, brought Turkey closer to Palestinians, while maintaining the country's position as an umbrella for Israeli-Syrian political normalization.

The Israeli elections, meanwhile, brought a right-wing government with the harsh rhetoric and stubbornness of Avigdor Lieberman and Binyamin Netanyahu. Israel has been confronted not only by traditional antagonists like Iran, but also by a new global leadership represented by Barack Obama.

That new leadership role has now come under renewed scrutiny with the Iranian elections. The election of Obama and the atmosphere he brought opened the door for Iran to move through and come in from the cold. Everyone expected Iranians to rise to the challenge, to allow Mir Hossein Mousavi to move Iran into the international community and onto a closer footing with Obama and Erdogan.

What happened, however, from a Palestinian perspective, is a political earthquake deferred.

bitterlemons: So Palestinians would have preferred Mousavi?

Abdul Hadi: Yes, because it would have brought Iran onto the stage that Obama has set and enabled the country to take advantage of the new international climate. It would have brought Iran closer to the international community, closer to the language of Obama and to the culture of what is missing in the Middle East, namely challenging others in their own language instead of simply sitting in our tents and demanding the same thing in the same language that we have been demanding for the past 61 years since our first nakba.

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