"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.