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By Sarah Beth Costello


Conflict has raged in the Middle East for centuries. U.S. presidents from Jimmy Carter to George Bush and Barack Obama have attempted to quell the tumultuous political and religious factions.

Palestinian, Israeli and Egyptian leaders will meet in Washington this month to discuss necessary steps in implementing peace between the conflicting nations. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will visit May 18, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will arrive in Washington May 26 and Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will arrive May 28.

Obama plans to discuss U.S. involvement in enacting peace in the Middle East while “strengthening partnerships” and discussing the important steps each nation will take, said spokesman Robert Gibbs.

During his campaign, Obama said quick peace in the Middle East may even be beyond his control as president. According to General James Jones, a global expectation remains that Obama will make progress in securing peace in the Middle East. Obama’s “peace process”  will begin May 18 with the visit from Prime Minister Netanyahu. Obama plans to deliver a speech on June 4 to Egyptian Muslims.

THE PLAN

The current plan for ending the conflict will begin with a ceasefire in Gaza, while applying previous steps of the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords and attempt to construct a peace deal between Israel, Palestine and Syria.

Despite the steps being taken by different political leaders, many remain skeptical of Obama’s plans for peace.

“No matter how far [Obama] gets with the Palestinians, I think there’s a problem. The Palestinians are too fractioned,” said senior Robert Chamberlain, a political science major and outgoing president of Model United Nations. “Mahmoud Abbas won’t be able to deliver on anything because of Hamas. Hamas won’t be willing to do anything. They’re basically going to be the thorn in everyone’s side for the negotiation.”

Obama says the implementation of an independent Palestinian state is one of the core deals that will solve current problems. But Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders continue to refuse endorsing this decision.

OBAMA PEACE INITIATIVE AND PUBLIC OPINION

“I believe President Barack Obama is attempting to appease everyone in the world. But there’s no way that two countries with two different ideologies can ever be at peace,” said Mark Drye, a former Marine who recently returned from a tour in Iraq. “I say the best way would be economic terms because the country itself will not have peace unless there’s something to have peace for.”

Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are taking a strict stance on Israel’s current position, saying that the struggle for peace must be a “two-state solution.” Obama said that he plans to “actively pursue” implementing two independent states.

The Obama administration says that an alliance between Palestine and Israel is necessary for increasing sanctions against Iran.

“I don’t think there will ever be peace in the Middle East,” said Celia Henry, a nursing student at Alamance Community College who visited Israel in September 2008. “I don’t think Israel should have to give any more land to Palestine or Egypt.”

Henry said there was a lot of discussion in Israel about the U.S. presidential campaigns when she visited the nation.

“[The Israelis] weren’t necessarily talking about Obama, but there was definitely talk about who was going to become the next U.S. president and how that would affect Israel,” said Henry. “I think that people didn’t really know what he stood for. I heard one person say ‘what’s good for America is good for Israel.’”

Many people are skeptical of campaign promises and Obama’s endeavors for peace in the Middle East when the conflict has existed for centuries.

“Honestly, I don’t think any president will ever follow through on what they say,” said Lindsey Pennington, a junior International Business major at Eastern University. “I mean, he can follow through, but I think it’s up to the Muslim and Israeli leaders.”

When it comes to the best actions to take in solving the peace crisis, many have different opinions.

“I would say take a page out of Jimmy Carter’s playbook, that we look at the one kind of lasting peace in the Middle East from the Camp David reports between Israel and Egypt. And obviously the Bush Doctrine has not been very successful in bringing democracy into the region, but you see a more diplomatic approach by Jimmy Carter of one of the very few instances of lasting peace,” said Mileah Kromer, the Assistant Professor of Political Science and Assistant Director of the Elon University Poll.