By Mahmoud Murad
The past few months suggest that the region is heading towards peace. The Palestinians are talking to each other and to the Israelis. With Turkey acting as host and mediator, Syria is about to negotiate with the Israelis. Apparently, Washington prefers that Turkey becomes a major player in the Middle East instead of Iran. And the Americans are hoping that Syria abandons its close bonds with Iran in return for getting back the Golan and perhaps the ditching of the international investigation into the assassination of Rafik Al-Hariri.
Why are Egypt and Saudi Arabia being pushed to the back of the picture while much smaller Qatar is being brought to the forefront? Frankly speaking, this is because Egypt cannot afford to turn its back on pan-Arabism and start promoting the "Greater Middle East". As for Qatar, with all due respect, it is a small country that can use the publicity. Qatar stepped into the Lebanese crisis only after Egypt and Saudi Arabia mediated for months on end. So without begrudging the Qatari success, others paved the way for it.
If peace is on the cards, we all must be grateful. But anyone who listened to George W Bush's speech at the Knesset would have a reason to worry. The US president spoke about the Middle East 60 years from now but failed to address the current suffering of the Palestinians. My fear is that there is an attempt to push major Arab countries aside. My fear is that others are trying to distract us with economic crises, factional strife and talk of democracy while they go on promoting their own schemes for our future. Turkey and Qatar are all fine by us. What we worry about is the future of this region, a future that we shouldn't allow others to decide for us.
This week's Soapbox speaker is deputy editor-in- chief of Al-Ahram.