Barack Obama's extraordinary balancing act

When he first walked into the White House as our new president, Barack Obama stumbled headfirst into the numerous problems that plague our world. The most pressing of these issues is the conflict that continues to rage through the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

The head of state has two choices: he can align himself with the wishes of the presidents of Egypt and Palestine and support a Palestinian unity government, or he can continue to concentrate on building support for Fatah in the West Bank as an alternative to radical Islam.

If there is any hope of avoiding further conflict, however, Obama really has only one choice: Hamas must be recognized and Palestine must begin to move toward a unity government.

With the United States' new policy countering terrorism, it is clear that the country will do anything to avoid recognizing Hamas as a legitimate ruling body. Yet this is the only possible action if things are expected to move forward. Our country has made its name on the premises of democracy, negotiation and diplomacy, and these are exactly the elements that are missing in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The United States cannot promote democracy throughout the world and then deny negotiation to a democratically elected government. Hamas was elected by the Palestinian people to hold power over their territory. Denying a ruling body's right to negotiation removes any chance for peace. Palestine must then strive to create a unified government that can be a collection of Hamas and Fatah representatives, suiting all Palestinian people and possibly quelling some of the worries of Israel and the U.S. about Hamas being a terrorist state. Only then can Palestine reach its goal of becoming a sovereign nation.

While this may create problems for Obama with the predominantly "pro-Israel" United States population, and with the Israeli government, the United States and Israel will not be recognizing negotiations with a terrorist state, but negotiations with a legitimate, elected, ruling body.

History has shown that the pro-Israel policy of the U.S. has done nothing to amend the conflict. If the U.S. hopes to hold any kind of mediating position, it needs to remain biased of its own interests and hold the interests of the warring states as its only concern. Palestine desires a unity government of both Fatah and Hamas representatives, which can rule peacefully over the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Both Fatah and Hamas are willing to work toward this goal. Israel desires an end to the reign of Hamas in the Palestinian territory. With a coalition of Hamas and Fatah representatives, this goal could possibly be reached.

In the first days of his term, President Obama faces a choice that could change the outlook of relations in the Middle East for years to come. In the interest of keeping peace, the U.S. must take a risk in supporting the unification efforts of the two Palestinian governments, while still treading as lightly as possible on its relations with Israel.

The only way to do this is to support the unification government in a way that is least threatening to Israeli demands: a Fatah-Hamas coalition. We can only hope that our strong new leader can follow through with his promise for the people who need it most, and that change is in the air.

Caitlin Larry is a freshman who longs for world peace and puppies who poop rainbows. Well, world peace, anyway.