Monday, February 14, 2005


Uri Avnery on Sharm al-Sheikh

I've been pretty resolutely negative here on this blog about the chances that the Sharm al-Sheikh summit is going to lead to a lasting peace between Israel and Palestine. However, because it's Valentine's Day and because nobody likes somebody who is negative all the time. So, here's an article by Uri Avnery that opens the possibility up for some optimism. It's certainly not naively optimistic, but as Avnery points out:
Nobody called it the “Ophira Conference”. Not even the papers of the extreme right. Who today even remembers the name Ophira, which was given to Sharm-al-Sheikh during the Israeli occupation, as a first step to its annexation?...

I was there in 1956. A beautiful gulf ... a few small houses and a distinctive mosque. Before our army withdrew, a few months later, it blew up the mosque in a fit of pique.

Now, 22 years after leaving Ophira for the last time ... all of us are treating the place as an Egyptian resort, as Egyptian as Cairo and Alexandria. The past has been erased. The occupation has been wiped from our collective memory.

That is the first optimistic lesson from the conference. One can withdraw. One can put an end to occupation. One can even forget that it ever took place.
So peace is possible. This is not an "impossible," "unsolvable," or "unending" conflict. Given a just resolution and time, the conflict can even be forgotten. Peace is possible. Is this summit likely to bring it? Well, I don't know about "likely." But it's not impossible either (of course, changes need to take place). Avnery writes:
Pessimists will say: Nothing came from of the conference. The cease-fire is fragile. In the best case, Sharon will fulfil his promise of withdrawing from the Gaza Strip and dismantling a few settlements. Then the trouble will start anew.

Optimists will say: This is a good beginning. The cessation of “Palestinian terrorism” will create a new atmosphere in Israel. The dismantling of the first settlements will create a crucial confrontation. The settlers and the nationalist-messianic Right will be defeated. People will realize that life can be different. The dynamics of the process will carry Sharon along and he will not be able to stop it, even if he wants to.

Who is right?

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