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Former ambassador looking for more US leaders -

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Reporter: Eleanor Hall

ELEANOR HALL: A former Australian ambassador to Israel has warned that the Middle East is likely to
face a series of significant strategic shifts in the near future which will lead to more violence
and conflict.

Peter Rodgers says a solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict is still the key to stability in
the region but that the United States needs to take a decisive leadership role to drive this and he
says he is not encouraged by the signs coming from the Obama administration.

Peter Rodgers has just written a book about the region and he spoke to me from Canberra earlier
today.

ELEANOR HALL: Peter Rodgers in your book you paint two scenarios about the shape of the Middle East
in 2020. Do the Israeli election results this month make the optimistic or the pessimistic one more
likely?

PETER RODGERS: It depends. The Israeli election process is pretty complicated. We don't know who or
won't know who the new Israeli Government is for perhaps a month or so and even then it is likely
to be a rather sort of fragile construct via the right wing parties or left wing parties.

If it's a left wing construct then there is change that it will give a bit of a lift around the
region but I wouldn't read too much into it.

ELEANOR HALL: Well it looks like Benjamin Netanyahu from Likud is strengthening his bid to lead a
coalition that could include both Kadima and Mr Lieberman's extremist party. You know the players
here well. What is your view of a government, a coalition of that sort?

PETER RODGERS: Well it will take a very tough line with the Palestinians. It will not do anything
useful to restrain Israeli settlement in the West Bank. It will not countenance the idea of dealing
with Hamas or those outside the Palestinian authority and without those things gradually happening,
uncomfortable as they may be, there can be no progress.

ELEANOR HALL: You state categorically in your book that the Middle East will be the scene of more
wars in the near future and you say that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will not be resolved
peacefully. It's unusual for a diplomat to publicly express such unequivocally negative views. Why
are you so categorical?

PETER RODGERS: Well I need to say I haven't been a diplomat since 1998 and now I can speak freely.

I think there are a number of elements in this. One is that the Israelis and the Palestinians are
absolutely adept at giving each other excuses for bad behaviour and I think, like many others, I
went through a period where I thought they have created the problem, it's up to them to solve it.

They are incapable of solving their problem. They need constructive and imaginative outside help.
That can only come from America. It won't come from Europe. It can only come from America. The ball
is very much in the Obama court.

I am not particularly optimistic because I think we are going to see a replay of what's gone on for
the last 10 or 20 years and in terms of that broader issue of conflict. I mean it's not just the
Israeli Palestinians who are likely to continue to do nasty things to each other.

Iran is a player in the Middle East. It's shifting some of the strategic dimensions in both a
religious sense - the Sunni and Shi'ite divide - Iran has imperial ambitions in the Middle East. It
may well have nuclear weapons ambitions.

I mean the prospects for significant dramatic strategic shifts over the next generation or so are
really profound and they are mostly negative.

ELEANOR HALL: You say that you are not particularly optimistic about Barack Obama. What role should
the US be playing in this?

PETER RODGERS: It seems to me we are in a watershed period. The Obama administration needs to do a
few things. It needs to lay the law down to Israel over Israeli settlements in the West Bank. It
needs to both put pressure on Egypt and to help Egypt dry up the flow of weapons to Hamas in Gaza.

Without the Palestinians being assured that they will have a two state that consists of most of the
West Bank and Gaza, there is no reason why Palestinians should have any faith in a peace process.
Without Israelis believing that they can go about their daily lives free of Hamas rocket attacks or
other terrorist attacks from the Palestinian side, Israelis won't sign onto a peace deal.

The player in this is the US.

ELEANOR HALL: Well a senior Democrat, Senator John Kerry visited Israel and Gaza overnight. He
stressed that the US is not changing its position on Hamas but this is a senior US official
visiting the region. Is that a positive side?

PETER RODGERS: I think that's completely dumb. I mean Hamas, Israel cannot destroy Hamas any more
than Hamas despite its charter can destroy Israel. Hamas is a player on the ground. No amount of
wishing will make it go away.

He may be visiting Gaza but it has to lead somewhere and if it doesn't lead to a serious rethink in
how Israel deals with the region including, and all the players on the ground including Hamas then
it was a quick tour to the beach and nothing more.

There cannot be a peace process without significant dramatic and energetic US leadership that needs
to put pressure on all parties.

ELEANOR HALL: Peter Rodgers, thanks very much for joining us.

PETER RODGERS: Thanks Eleanor.

ELEANOR HALL: That's the former Australian ambassador to Israel, Peter Rodgers. His new book is
called 'Arabian Plights: The Future of the Middle East'.