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Is US still key to Middle East peace?

The crisis in Gaza has put America's relationship with the region under the spotlight, and has raised questions on whether the United States is still the key to brokering peace in the Middle East.

WASHINGTON: The crisis in Gaza has put America's relationship with the region under the spotlight, and has raised questions on whether the United States is still the key to brokering peace in the Middle East.

US Secretary of State John Kerry was dispatched to Cairo this week by President Barack Obama, who told reporters that the Secretary of State would do what he could to breathe new life into Egyptian truce proposals for Gaza.

Obama said: "The work will not be easy. Obviously, there are enormous passions involved in this and some very difficult strategic issues involved. Nevertheless, I've asked John to do everything he can to help facilitate a cessation to hostilities.”

But today, there may be less that the US can do to facilitate peace in the Middle East than there used to be in the past.

It has been 36 years since Jimmy Carter presided over the signing of the Camp David accords, and 21 years since Bill Clinton coaxed Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat to shake hands on the lawn of the White House. Since then, while successive US presidents have strived to advance the prospects for peace in the Middle East - none more so than Obama - all have failed.

The Gaza battle between Israel and Hamas underscores one of the reasons why their efforts have failed. The United States officially lists Hamas as a terrorist organisation, and no government contacts are permitted with Hamas leaders – until the group renounces the use of violence and formally recognises Israel's right to exist.

That, coupled with the chilly relationship between Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu - the two men are not exactly ideological soulmates - limits America's ability to influence the outcome of events.

Elliot Abrahams from Council on Foreign Relations, said: "I don't think the United States has a tremendous amount of leverage here. The Egyptians do, the people with money do, which would be the Qataris for Hamas, the Emiratis and the Saudis for the Palestinian Authority, obviously the Israelis are a key player, I don't think the Turkish role is very great.

“I think the United States can kind of talk to everybody . But the days when the American Secretary of State could fly in and say here we go, here's the solution, point one, point two, point three - I don't think that's gonna happen this week".

However, successive US governments keep trying and waiting for the chance to make a difference in the Middle East - a chance that may not come until a new generation of leaders rise to the fore. 

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