Making peace work
October 23, 2005
THE ROSE GARDEN STATEMENTS by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud
Abbas and President Bush on Thursday were familiar, and their sentiments
worthy. But whether what passes for peace in Israel endures will be
determined in Gaza and the West Bank. That picture remains unclear.
Israel completed the withdrawal of its settlers and troops from Gaza
last month, ending decades of occupation. Abbas wants Israeli Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon to do more, such as making it easier for Palestinians
to travel between Gaza and the West Bank and disallowing more Israeli
settlements in occupied land. Sharon, in turn, has demanded that Abbas
disarm militant groups such as Hamas and stop Palestinian attacks on
Both men await parliamentary elections next year and are unlikely to
make bold moves before then. But that should not mean paralysis, especially
because ending the battle between Israel and the Palestinians remains
the key to Middle East peace.
The United States needs to remain heavily involved in the process. Bush
heaped praise on Abbas on Thursday, hailing him as "a man devoted to
peace" who has brought the Palestinians close to their goal —
now shared by the U.S. and Israel — of a nation of their own.
If Sharon's government and the U.S. empower Abbas by helping him succeed
in improving the lot of Palestinians, it will undercut the appeal of
Hamas. Abbas needs to be able to point to tangible payoffs for cooperating
One goal should be reducing Palestinian unemployment. Among the 1.3
million residents of Gaza, nearly two of every three people live in
poverty, and unemployment is well over 30%. The U.S. and European nations
provide large amounts of money to the Palestinian Authority; Arab nations,
which for decades have lamented the plight of the Palestinians and which
are flush with petrodollars, could do far more. Gaza residents could
earn money by removing the rubble of nearly five years of the armed
uprising against Israel and building much-needed housing.
Bush was evenhanded in praising the Palestinians and Israel, and in
reminding each of their promises under the "road map" to peace. But
if Israel keeps adding to settlements and Abbas does not do more to
disarm militant groups such as Hamas, the months of relative quiet since
Yasser Arafat's death last year could end in renewed violence.
Copyright 2005 Los