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February 26, 2005

Peace in the Air?!
Babak Seradjeh  [info|posts]
delicacy.gif

"Delicacy," courtesy: Miss M.

With Arafat gone, and Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) secured in his stead, a new horizon seems to have been opened to the prospect of peace in the troubled regions of Israel and Palestine in particular, and in the Middle East in general. The heads of the two states The officials of Israel and the Palestinian Authority met and talked peace, a bilateral ceasefire was declared, and even the Palestinian militant groups who have been launching attacks on Israeli civilians pledged to talk to President Abbas before any future action against Israel. Everything happened too fast, but perhaps that is because a momentum had been building up for a long time that is now set in motion in the absence of Arafat. So, is peace finally in the air?

The times are critical. Just yesterday, one of the militant groups (Islamic Jihad) broke off its nominal pledge to the ceasefire by blowing up a bomb in front of a crowded club in Israel in a suicide mission, the first in nearly three months. Islamic Jihad first denied responsibility. This might be the sign of a fracture within the militant group. If the new offshoot continues the attacks it could stagger the attempts to reach stability. But even then, the response to this suicide bombing seems to be of a different nature from those to the long trail of previous ones. There are condemnations in strong language against perpetrators not just from Israel but also from the Palestinian Authority, especially Mahmoud Abbas. Morover, there have been arrests. And unlike before, Israel is holding her breath. In short the two sides are showing a real interest in the subject matter of their recent talks, that is peace.

So it seems for now that this time peace has been taken seriously, especially by the Palestinian Authority. Change is indeed in the air. The Palestinian parliament caused a major change in the political topography of the Palestinain Authority by persistently opposing the nomination of the old faces for the new cabinet. Arial Sharon is elbowing his way through Israel's politics to implementing a promising disengagement plan. So far all the right gestures have been made by the key players.

But it takes more than just gestures if the peace is to be secured on firm grounds. On the one hand, those who intend to meddle with the peace process must be either persuaded out of their ways or forced out the decision making, especially on the Palestinian side where they have a larger following and a more decisive role. Israel must, on the other hand, continue to work with President Abbas. This will show the Palestinians that peace is indeed within reach, which will then result in less support for the violent approach taken by the militant groups, like Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and more importantly their world-view. By enforcing such positive feed-back processes, in conjunction with a new emerging political order in other parts of the Middle East, peace may in fact have been given a chance this time.

Comments
complexity at February 27, 2005 04:58 PM [permalink]:

Wish everything were as simple as you see them, dude..

Ron at February 27, 2005 05:42 PM [permalink]:

I think the most interesting recent development has been that both Israel and the Palestinians are pointing their fingers at Syria for this latest attack. This is relevant for two reasons: First, If both the Palestinians and Israel can agree on a third party as a common enemy, they can redirect hostility away from each other. Personally, I've always thought that both Israel and the Palestinians are the victims of other powers in the region (especially Syria), so I would welcome this development as a step in the right direction.

Second, this is one more screw tightening on Syria, which is losing friends and allies at an astonishing rate. In the last few months we’ve seen France (Syria’s European “patron”) condemn Syria, the Lebanese people are publicly opposing Syrian occupation, and more clandestine operations in Syria by Kurdish forces in Iraq (supported by Israel), not to mention the new Baghdad regime having serious problems with Syria. I would not be surprised to see historic changes in Syria this year.

Speaking of Peace in the Air, I think Democracy in the Air might have been more appropriate. The first two months of 2005 have seen more progress on democracy in the middle east than the last who knows how many years. Elections for the Palestinians, Iraqis, Egypt opening up to multi-party system, Lebanese speaking out, and local elections in the Gulf. Maybe someone can enlighten me about how this is affecting the people of Iran?

Alan K. Henderson at March 1, 2005 05:25 AM [permalink]:

Real peace comes from the grassroots, not the leadership (although leaders can shape the opinions of the masses). In the US, for instance, race relations improved not because of any of the political reforms of the 1960s, but because the culture was changing.

Is there any sign of cultural change among Palestinian Arabs? For decades they have been steeped with hatred for, and have been largely supportive of mob violence (suicide bombing and other attacks) directed against, the general Israeli population. Where is the grassroots opposition to this? Why do we never hear of Palestinian dissidents who, even if they do perceive legitimate grievances against the Israeli government, refuse to support vigilantism as the solution?

Arash Jalali at March 1, 2005 04:42 PM [permalink]:

Ron,
Iranians, as I can see it now, are bracing for a major setback; a long jump back to the early 1980's after the upcomming presidential elections in June.

An Iranian Student (AIS) at March 3, 2005 02:28 PM [permalink]:

I think it is still naive to expect a real engagemnet for peace from the Palestinians, but I agree that we are seeing some signs of a very slow change. More than anything else this is due to correct policies by the Israelis and the Americans in the Middle East thses past few years.
Shahron's approach is proving to be genial. Building the fence and retreating from Gaza, while still keeping important settlements in the West Bank, and targeting the heads of the terror groups have all are showing their effect. The Bush administrations isolation of Arafat and backing the Israeli position sent the right message from the White House , for a change. Compare that with all the Clinton's Arafat-coddling and see for yourself which one was correct! (though the US is going in that direction again now, alas!)
The key is for the Palestinians to see clearly that THEY would be the ones who will suffer most as long as they keep this itifada and suicide bombings going. Israel's steadfast endurance of all the bloodshed and barbarism of the past is making them gradually see this. The Fence and Israel finally withdrawing behind it is making some see that they'll finally end up alone and could easily turn to each other to satisfy the now galloping hatered that runs free and start devouring each other in the coming chaos! But I think that this is still just the beginning. The culture is so full of hate and ignorance that for an effective change the world must wait for at least a generations to see anything decent and humane to overtake the society.
The new moves towards democracy in the rest of the Arab world is a direct result of W's policy of democratising the Middle East and the liberation of Afghanistan and Iraq. (Note to "peace loving progressives" and professional Bush-bashers : Your eyes openned yet, or still whirling around in the depths of your "sophisticated worldviews" and UN type-fairytales? )
But again, they have a long way ahead of them.

As for Iran, I think it is more clear now than ever that left alone, there is not going to be any meaningul change or reform or revolution by the people without serious outside help aimed specifically at toppling the system. Regime change will come about either by REAL, serious and complete isolation of the mullahs in the world (but with the "peace loving humanist" Europeans and lovely Russians...I don't think it would be easy) and DIRECT involvement of the West, especially US, in helping and provoking and supporting unrest all the way untill it boils over, either this or war. Iran NEEDS a regime change and the democratisation of ME will never be achieved with these Islamic animals in Tehran, reformist or hardliner alike, still in charge.
I just hope people would stop fooling themselves.

An Iranian Student (AIS) at March 5, 2005 08:03 PM [permalink]:

Just one little thing about Abbas:
He might very well turn out to be worse than the creature Arafat, by wearing a suit and talking the right talk and spinning on it the way Araft couldn't have done given his record.
I hope the Israelis and others avoid making teh mistake we made by electing and giving our trust to exactly that kind of "cleaned up on the outside-saying all the right things" pile of filth: the whore Khatami.

shahriar at March 20, 2005 09:32 AM [permalink]:

Happy new Year guys! Noroozat pirouz!!

Ron at March 27, 2005 04:06 PM [permalink]:

Happy Purim! May the spirit of King Cyrus return to bring freedom to the Persian people.

AIS at March 28, 2005 11:50 PM [permalink]:

Thanks Ron and happy Noruz to you too! :)