Wednesday, February 09, 2005


Peace in the Middle East

Am I excited about peace in the Middle East? Let's just say I'm about as excited as Robert Fisk. It's not that I don't hope that this cease-fire agreement will lead to peace, but I'm not sure how anybody can really draw that line of reasoning from a decent understanding of the situation. So let's look at the situation: On the Palestinian side there has been a change in leadership, elections (presidential and some municipal), and a renewed sense of investment in political solutions to the conflict. On the Israeli side, there has been no change in leadership. There has been some shifting of parties in and out of a coalition government, but if anything the coalition is less sound now than before. On the American side there has been no change in leadership, though Bush is now in his second term and there has been shift in the cabinet. Where have the fundamental shift in positions come from? Well, there haven't been any. And why doesn't this matter? Because issues that lie at the heart of the conflict were not discussed yesterday.
Will the Israelis close down their massive settlements in the West Bank, including those which surround Jerusalem? No mention of this yesterday. Will they end the expansion of Jewish settlements - for Jews, and Jews only, across the Palestinian West Bank? No mention of this yesterday. Will they allow the Palestinians to have a capital in Arab East Jerusalem? No mention of this yesterday. Will the Palestinians truly end their "intifada" - including their murderous suicide bombings - as a result of these non-existent promises?
The answer? Well, for now, maybe. But in the long run, as Fisk points out, how will this differ from Oslo accords, which offered peace which was not delivered. In fact, the only difference is that this can fall apart much more quickly than the Oslo accords. Here there is no process (which, though fundamentally flawed, at least Oslo offered) to draw things out. There is much less pressure on Israel from the United States. Abbas is not nearly the figure that Arafat was. The list goes on. This is why I am not optimistic.

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