WE have not heard much from Condoleezza Rice, or anyone else in the Bush administration for that matter, about the ”New Middle East” whose birth she proudly announced at a Rome conference three weeks ago. A new Middle East may indeed have taken shape since then but it is not the one she envisaged. Without suggesting that either Israel or Hezbollah was the victor in the recent hostilities it can certainly be said that the balance of power in the area has shifted and that the supposed invincibility of the Israel military has, at the very least, been severely questioned. In an article in the Washington Post this week Dr Rice described the recent United Nations ceasfire resolution 1701 as an important step on A Path Leading To Peace (the title of her article) in the Middle East. Oddly, there was no reference at all in this article to serious problems elsewhere in the Middle East, for instance the deteriorating situation in Iraq and the very one-sided offensive that Israel is continuing to undertake against the Palestinians in Gaza. The capture of an Israeli soldier in Gaza was the spark that started the past month's hostilities and Israel's disproportionate response by disabling public utilities and arresting ministers and MPs set the standard for what followed in southern Lebanon. Any path to peace in the Middle East leads straight through Palestine and the problems there, exacerbated by the West's cold–shouldering of the Hamas government, need urgent attention.


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