try again / A Mideast peace push that just might succeed
effort to achieve an enduring accord between Israelis and Palestinians
has exhausted a long line of special envoys. Still, it must be pursued
in spite of serial setbacks because the alternative -- endless and
escalating violence -- is intolerable.
President Bush traveled to the region, raising hopes of progress,
which were then confounded by a period of fighting that produced
casualties on both sides, including civilians -- at least 20 deaths
on the Israeli side and 30 on the Palestinian side. For the moment
things are a little quieter, and diplomacy continues.
will gain any traction depends to a great extent on what happens
with Hamas, the most militant of the Palestinian elements. Palestinian
Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas must somehow bring Hamas into the fold
if he is ever to rein in attacks on Israelis, a precondition to
For the Israelis,
Hamas is one of at least three Palestinian organizations that should
simply be put out of business -- put to death, one might say --
through military action in the West Bank and Gaza, even if that
requires assassinations of Hamas leaders.
of course, cannot acknowledge this common objective with the Israelis
and cooperate with them in bringing it about without failing abjectly
in his political mission among the Palestinians -- to bring as many
of them as possible into an accord. If he is viewed as Israel's
man, not only his political viability but his life could be in danger.
So is there
any hope? Or is this "Bush round" of the Middle East peace process
already on the rocks, only two weeks after Mr. Bush's personal intervention?
Battered American diplomats sometimes say a cease-fire in the Middle
East is sometimes simply a chance to reload.
prove to be the case this time as well. "Confidence-building measures"
on both sides have been minimal and grudging. The Israelis pull
down a few, largely uninhabited settler outposts. "Responsible"
Palestinian leaders publicly pull their hair at the recalcitrant
attitudes of members of Hamas and other militant groups, while Yasser
Arafat continues to meddle, seeking to preserve his relevance.
Yet the situation
is not hopeless. There are two positive signs. The first is that,
after meetings between Israeli and Palestinian security officials,
there is a real possibility that Israeli forces will pull out of
the northern part of Gaza and Bethlehem in the West Bank and turn
over security in those areas to the Palestinians.
The other hopeful
sign is the arrival of a new resident U.S. envoy, John S. Wolf,
who as ambassador to Malaysia established a reputation as a creative
diplomat who gets things done.
The work itself
remains worth doing. President Bush has put his reputation on the
line this time. That can make a big difference. But it would be
nice if the Israelis and Palestinians were both thinking about how
to move the process forward, rather than seeing the latest U.S.
initiative as simply another well-intentioned intervention in a
dispute that will never really be resolved.
PG Publishing Co., Inc.