Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Middle East Peace Sputters Alive

Even as I lamented the fate of Middle East peace, a bright spot has materialized. Thanks in large part to the last-minute support of US Secretary Condoleezza Rice, Israel and Palestine have agreed to open the Gaza-Egypt border checkpoint at Rajah on November 25th. Passenger bus convoys are to begin on December 15th and truck convoys in January 2006. This is small step towards allowing Palestinians some measure of control over their own borders. A small step that has taken months to iron out and required the US Secretary to mediate has finally been taken.

Rice set forth an ambitious vision despite the overwhelming deadlock:
The important thing here is that people have understood that there is an important balance between security on the one hand, and, on the other hand, allowing the Palestinian people freedom of movement.

The other important point is that everybody recognizes that if the Palestinians can move more freely and export their agriculture, that Gaza will be a much better place, where the institutions of democracy can begin to take hold.
I applaud Condoleezza Rice for her efforts. But if it takes a US Secretary to negotiate every step of the peace process, I fear the these two countries will never resolve their differences. Without a momentum pushed by both countries, more international effort will be needed. Or at least a more consistent international support in the mediation process.

Meanwhile, as the BBC News reports, politics never rest, even after this recent agreement:
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas - facing a serious challenge from the Islamist group Hamas - wants to see movement on the big issues of borders, settlements, refugees and Jerusalem.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon - facing challenges from within his ruling Likud Party and from a Labour Party struggling to revive its fortunes - wants to avoid the big sensitive issues and concentrate instead on the need to curb Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups.
The danger is that any momentum will be discarded by potentially more radical administrations. The world needs to take notice and end this affair before the righteous rampage engulfs the entire Muslim world. This should be part of a larger US strategy to end Islamic terrorism, hopefully not a gambit at higher poll numbers.


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