The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded at the city hall of the Norwegian capital, Oslo. Fifteen years ago, we diplomatic reporters from Israel were covering the awarding of the Peace Prize to Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat following the Oslo Accords and the establishment of the Palestinian Authority.
Then, after the ceremony, Udi Segal of Army Radio, approached Rabin and said, "Can I ask you just one question, Mr. Prime Minister?" "About what?" Rabin replied and disappeared into an elevator.
Rabin's question, "About what?" came up again this past weekend when the Norwegian prize committee decided to award the prize to American President Barack Obama.
Nobel Prizes are given for proven accomplishments, and not for intentions and hopes. Israeli chemist Ada Yonath won a Nobel prize after decades of effort in her Weizmann Institute laboratory. In contrast, Obama is receiving a Nobel for a research proposal, for a speech in Cairo full of promises and one at the United Nations, where he presented his vision for a better world of mutual respect and a world free of nuclear weapons.
It is easy to deride Obama as unworthy of a Nobel Prize. So far, in his less than nine months in office, he has not achieved even one peace agreement and has not ended the wars his country has been waging in Afghanistan and Iraq. In the Middle East, he has yet to see a renewal of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and has not moved Syria into the pro-Western camp. Iran and Korea continue to pursue their nuclear programs and Israel to continue development in the settlements, contrary to Obama's position.
Still, the prize committee was correct in that Obama is a worthy recipient for his efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation. The world has changed over the past year, and Obama - and no one else - is responsible for the change.
In granting him the prize, the Norwegians are signaling to Obama that he should continue along his current path, that he should avoid an escalation in Afghanistan and a war against Iran; and that he should take serious steps to advance peace in the Middle East and to reign in nuclear weapons, even if there is a potential conflict between the two goals. (Depriving Iran of nuclear weapons may ultimately require the use of force.)
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now