A New Day?

Renewed hope for a lasting peace in the Middle East comes in the wake of Arafat’s death. After so much violence and misery, it seemed to me that hate had become a permanent part of the desert landscape. Now that the man the world recognized to represent the Palestinian people is gone, a new beginning feels possible. I do not mean to say that Arafat was all that stood between the current state of affairs and a lasting peace. There is blame enough to spread around in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Pointing fingers may strengthen ideological positions, but does little to solve the harder problem of preparing populations to tolerate one another. With new blood in the Palestinian leadership, however, personal animus can be put aside and the world may find someone who, like Thatcher and Reagan found in Gorbachev, they can deal with. I don’t know much about Mahmoud Abbas, but I do know that he is considered more moderate than Arafat and is an experienced negotiator. Maybe the time for peace has come. Hope, naively or not, springs eternal.


  1. I can’t claim any deep knowledge of the intricacies of the conflict–although I made a special point of fleshing out the major historical moments when I was in law school. My slightly informed opinion is that we ought to reverse our policy of isolating the Palestinian leadership, especially now that Arafat is dead. On the other hand, Europe has an enormous stake in resolving the conflict and they ought to be pushed to accept an equal role in mediating a peace agreement. U.S. policy has long been biased towards the Israelis so having the EU play a larger role in the peace process will help to off-set post-settlement claims that the terms were unfair.

    Europe and the U.S. should also push as hard as possible for both the Israeli and Arab leadership (not just the Palestinian leadership) to lay the groundwork among their populations for broad recognition of legitimacy of Arab and Israeli claims to lands and sites that each will get under a peace agreement. Besides bolstering the international legitimacy of any peace agreement, it would signal that the sympathies of the world community would lie with those who abide by the agreement. You can’t negotiate in good faith if your schools are teaching that the other side has no legitimate claim. You can’t negotiate for peace if you encourage your religious leaders to teach the same thing. A political agreement will not stand if there aren’t enough people willing to support it and the people won’t support it if the government says one thing at the peace talks and undermines it in the communities.

  2. Wayne Wells says:

    I will believe that the Palestinians are serious about negotiations when they are willing to recognize the right of Israel to exist. How can Israel negotiate with a group who openly acknowledges that they want the total destruction of Israel?

    Remember the battle of Nauvoo? (I’m not quite that old, but close.) The remaining saints negotiated with the mob for their lives not for the right to maintain their homes and property.

  3. If Bush does anything other than rubberstamp Ariel Sharon’s decision-making, I’ll be surprised.

  4. In June 2002 Bush gave a speech calling for the establishment of a Palestinian state. It was the first time an American president had done so. Unfortunately, since that time, the President has been distracted and has caved to Sharon on so many occasions and in such craven fashion, that it is difficult to believe that anyone can take him seriously as an honest broker, something that could not be said of an American president before these last two years.

  5. In the short term, I do not think peace is more likely. But it is difficult to say what will happen to the peace process when we do not know who will be representing the Palestinians at the negotiating table. Right now the Palestinian Authority does not really control Gaza, and has shaky control over parts of the west bank. With Arafat dead, I am guessing that both Hamas and Hizbollah will be looking to undercut the PA even further. (A civil war is not out of the question.) So the peace process may involve representatives from PA/Fatah/PLO, Hamas/Syria, and Hizbollah/Iran. If the Palestinian delegation ends up fractured like this, the possibility of striking a deal is, unfortunately, much less likely.

  6. Mat, what’s your take on the proper U.S. role in this conflict?

  7. Nothing much will happen, unless we see the Palestinian population, and the leadership of the various moderate and hard-line groups give up their fixation with the idea that they will accept nothing but t he total defeat and destruction of Israel, and the expulsion of all the jewish citizens from what is now Israel. I somehow doubt that the USA Govt will be willing to stop supporting Israel, the only staunch ally of the USA in the mideast, plus, i wonder about the morality of letting Palestinians and other Arabs, both moderate and extremists carry out their dream – of carrying out a second holocasut of the Jewish people.

  8. President Bush is obviously reading our humble little blog. He just announced plans to work for a Palestinian state. He must be taking my advice to reengage.

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