Partnership for democracy is a partnership for peace [Archives:2004/781/Viewpoint]

October 14 2004

The US government's Middle East Partnership Initiative is something that is slowly getting more coverage in the media in Yemen and the world. It has been opposed by a number of so-called 'nationalists' and encouraged by governments and civil society leaders.
I personally have looked deeper into this initiative to understand what it is all about. The idea of partnership was striking to me at the beginning, because it means working together and not only receiving. This has been something we have been waiting for not from the USA in particular, but from any Western nation. We have been, for many decades, recipients of donations, assistance, and advice, but were rarely consulted regarding decision-making over such affairs. But today, we feel that this is changing.
Regardless of who presents to us a hand to democratize our country, I believe that we should not reject such an offer. Let's look into the potential of having this partnership work for both of us. I am not so naive to think that the USA doesn't have interest in such an initiative. But nevertheless, one cannot deny that this is the era of interests and it is not a crime to do something that would serve two parties at once.
In the recent roundtable discussion held by the Cultural Bridges Forum in Sana'a, the US embassy's representative made it clear that this is the era of globalization. He correctly noted the fact that things happening in Yemen may well affect countries tens of thousands of miles away. We are now living in an interdependent world where nations share common interests and concerns.
Hence, it is not unwise to at least discuss the possibilities that could come out from an American initiative.
I realize the concerns that the Arab world has, especially those of regular citizens, concerning their objection to the idea of working with a country that has vetoed security council resolutions against Israel so many times. But one can also not deny that our own Arab governments and regimes have been supportive of this scenario by their passiveness, acquiesce and unwillingness to be active players in the peace process in the Middle East.
The USA is acting on the demands of its own citizens and establishments who are leaning towards Israel and have interests in vetoing such resolutions. That is a pity for us in the Arab world, but at the same time it is a reminder that we are doing much less than is required to represent our case in other countries and the USA to change this reality. It is not that the USA is doing something abnormal. This is expected from the American administration, as there is a strong pro-Jewish lobby there. But what is wrong is our stance towards such issues and the little attention we pay to it.
Therefore, one needs to think about how we can harness the growing relationship with the USA and G8 countries to bolster our case for peace in the Middle East rather than simply ignore it and act submissively.
If we succeed in making the USA realize that its interest in our countries is greater than its interests in Israel, perhaps we would have the upper hand in this conflict. But for that to happen, we need to confront, discuss, and commit ourselves to dialogue when it comes to the initiatives proposed by the world's only superpower.
Some may see this as a deviation from the 'patriotic' national belief that boycotting America in every way is the right way according to Islam, as some mosque preachers emphasize in each and every Friday prayer.
But I honestly believe that if dialogue with the USA is bad, then boycotting is even worse. In that case, I don't think it is a mistake to go for the 'bad' in the meantime, whilst hoping that the 'bad' will prove to become 'good' in the long-run.