In some ways, the situation in the Middle East today reminds me of my experience 30 years ago in Africa. A moment of “clarity” then also brought crisis to another peace process – in South-West Africa/Namibia. It took another decade for Namibia finally to emerge as an independent state. What made the attempt at statehood there initially fail, and then subsequently succeed, holds lessons for the Middle East in the coming years.
Namibian independence efforts failed at first because the South African government, at that juncture, was sailing along, “jolly and light-hearted” in the security of its regional dominance. But then the political context changed radically.
In 1978, South Africa was standing “shoulder-to-shoulder” with America in a polarizing Cold War. It was the “enclave” of market economics in a Marxist region. How differently matters stood 10 years later as the Cold War was coming to an end. South Africa was no longer America’s “necessary” partner. Its legitimacy in the eyes of the world plummeted as the raison d’être for keeping Nelson Mandela in jail disappeared.