Resting hopes of peace on Obama

Contributed by editor on Jan 15, 2009 - 12:00 AM

Howard's Way.... a weekly
column from the Rt. Hon. Michael Howard QC. MP.

15 January 2009


The start of 2009 has been every bit as gloomy as was predicted.

In addition to the very serious deterioration of the economy we have
seen the terrible loss of life in Gaza.

I fervently hope that by the time you read this, the military action in
Gaza will have come to an end. Reams of paper have been consumed in
discussing the rights and wrongs of what has happened. No-one could fail
to be horrified by the loss of life and tragic suffering which we have
witnessed on our television screens in recent days. Nor could any
country sit idly by while its citizens were subjected to rocket attacks
of the kind which Hamas has launched against Israel – 70 in December
alone and aimed deliberately at civilians.

Is it too much to hope that there may be a glimmer of light in all this

In human affairs the darkest hour sometimes comes before the dawn.

As I see it the most encouraging sign to have emerged from this crisis
is the declaration by President-elect Obama that he will make the Middle
East one of his immediate priorities when he takes office next week.

He will not be short of challenges. Indeed it has been said that of
previous Presidents only Washington, Lincoln and Roosevelt have faced as
formidable a combination of difficulties. He will need to match their
greatness if the world is to be given the leadership it so badly needs
and which it is still the case that only America can provide.

This is particularly true of the Middle East. Only the American
President can exert the kind of pressure on both sides that is necessary
for a lasting peace. Many of the measures which are needed for the
creation of a viable Palestinian state will be unpalatable to Israel.
Settlements on the West Bank will have to be dismantled. Arab rights in
Jerusalem will have to be respected. But these measures must be taken.

I hope President Obama will use all his influence to ensure that they