Where is the leadership?

The problem in the Middle East is not the population. It is the leadership. Most are not elected, so the population are absolved of that guilt. The Arab Spring turned the table and some are now elected. However politicians have one aspiration; to be reelected; not to make peace. This is evident to the new US Secretary of State John Kerry, a non-elected position, when seemingly frustrated at the lack of progress in his shuttle diplomacy called for leadership after wrapping up a day and a half of meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Mahmoud Abbas. Israel is not the only consign to suffer this disorder.

Next month June 2013 Iranians go to the polls to elect a new President. The election has already commenced because the country under the leadership of the Guardian Council has already decided to narrow the field of candidates to exclude moderates and women based solely on who represents the Islamic regime’s interests. This means that the leadership has decided the leadership before asking the population who they wish to lead them. The election are hardly likely be one that is free and fair and it is not likely to represent the electors, the Iranian people.

Last Thursday members of Syria’s main political opposition group met in Istanbul to formulate their positions before an expected international conference in Geneva next month that is meant to pave the way for negotiations on a possible transitional government in Syria. The opposition talks in Istanbul were also intended to choose the group’s new president after the previous leader, Sheik Moaz al-Khatib, resigned amid political infighting in March. The meeting ended without accord on either point of the agenda; there is no new effective opposition leader and no consensus on the agenda and the nature of participation in the Geneva talks.

Sheik Moaz al-Khatib, the previous Syrian opposition leader has an ingenuous plan showing a lack of leadership acumen. He proposes to absolve all combatants involved in “legal military action” from prosecution; to allow Assad and 500 people of his choosing, along with their families, to seek refuge in any country willing to welcome them; for Assad to hand power to Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa or Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi within 30 days of accepting the plan; and for the current government to continue to govern for 100 days, in order to restructure the security and military apparatus. However President Assad the incumbent Syrian leader is unlikely to quit power on his own accord without force and has no plans to leave Syria. He refuses to step down before presidential elections, which he plans to enter and are planned for 2014. Showing a lack of care and concern for human suffering and no responsibly as a world power, Russia continues to support Assad’s continued leadership, saying his presence would stabilize any transition.

The Algerian president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, has not been seen in public since he suffered a minor stroke a month ago. The prime minister, Abdelmalek Sallal, has tried to quell persistent rumors that the 76-year-old president in his 14th year of rule was incapacitated or even dead last week, saying that he was doing well and resting, in hospital in France; and that Algerians should not believe false information in foreign media. Every Algerian president thus far has come from a generation of men whose legitimacy is rooted in their role in the war against French colonial forces to win independence 51 years ago. As the current president’s poor health continues the country is rudderless for example the national oil company is paralyzed by a corruption scandal. A new president is due but someone from within the system will lack credibility; and an individual coming from outside will have to respect the vested interests of the elite such as the military; a puppet president.

The examples are endless verging on the farcical; there is no country in the Middle East that is not beset with leadership tribulations. Leadership is like an ongoing Middle East circus for the summer months with many clowns dancing in front of the lions and tigers; just waiting for one to attack. US Secretary of State John Kerry is 100% accurate; there will be no progress until the leadership take a step forward and show leadership. The alternative as we have seen in the Arab Spring in the spirit of  the French or Bolshevik Revolutions is for the people to speak up and take charge; however apathy persists, known as the status quo.

Clearly peace will not come between Israel and the Palestinians until the people pressure the leaders; though long lasting sustainable peace can only come when the leaders have convinced the people that peace is essential; or when the people desire peace strong enough to take the situation into their own hands. Peace is not just a contract between Netanyahu and Abbas; it needs to be a meaningful acceptance, recognition and approval by every person without regard to color, creed, race and religion in Israel, Gaza, Judea, Samara and the neighboring states. Peace needs more than Abbas it also needs Hamas and others. So Mr. Netanyahu look far and wide, look out of the box, and determine your place in history; you cannot wait for Mr. Abbas or Mr. Kerry to decide; they are not leaders of Israel; you are.

Dr. Glen Segell, FRGS, is Researcher at The Institute for National Security Studies Tel Aviv, Lecturer at Bar-IlanUniversity and Senior Researcher for the ArielResearchCenter for Defense and Communication

About the Author
Dr Glen Segell is Fellow at the Ezri Center for Iran & Persian Gulf Studies, University of Haifa.