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2002 issue of
World Press Review
(VOL. 49, No. 1)
Israeli Palestinian Conflict
The Need to Negotiate
Independent (centrist), London, England, Nov. 5, 2001
Tony Blair has
been accused of naive optimism. Certainly, the pessimists have
it all their own way at the moment, with Ariel Sharon, the Israeli
prime minister, refusing to talk to President George W. Bush
and the killing and counter-killing following each other as
night follows day in the contested Holy Land. Yesterday opened
to the sound of Israeli rockets hitting Palestinian buildings
in the Gaza Strip; hours later a gun attack on a bus in Jerusalem
that left one dead [a second child later diedWPR]
and others injured.
It was not wrong of Prime Minister Blair, however, to be determined
to hope that some good in the Middle East might come out of
the awful deaths of thousands of U.S. civilians on Sept. 11.
Nor was it wrong of him to attempt to restart a series of dialogues
between the players. We do not attribute this view to him, but
to those who thought that the destruction of New Yorks
Twin Towers would shock the United States into reassessing its
stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were undoubtedly
being naive. It is certainly a widely held view in Arab and
Muslim countries that the suicide hijackers, however reprehensible
their methods, drew strength from the legitimate grievances
of the Palestinians against the United States for its steadfast
support of the state of Israel. The Palestinians do have legitimate
grievances, as Blair has made clear, but equally he tried to
bring the Arab leaders he visited to realize that the Israelis
have a legitimate case, too.
Because the rantings of Osama bin Laden exploit a legitimate
cause, namely that of the Palestinians, we should never allow
the draining of the swamp of extremist so-called
Islamic terrorism to be at the expense of other legitimate causes.
We can all understand that Al Qaeda has declared war on the
United States, but we should remember that it has declared war
on Israel too, and not just on the state of Israel but on all
Jews. This is vile anti-Semitism and we should say so. Thus,
while this newspaper regards Sharon as a thoroughly negative
force, who must bear a substantial responsibility for the current
rebellion in the Palestinian territories, it recognizes that
for all Israelis the threat from Al Qaeda is real and talk of
Palestinian grievances is bound to sound hollow.
The realistic optimist must acknowledge that the shockwaves
from Sept. 11 are as likely to have a negative impact on the
Middle East peace process as a positive one. But eventually,
Sharon, or his successor, will meet Bush or his successor, and
eventually a Palestinian leader will emerge capable of securing
for most of his people some kind of accommodation which allows
them to live in dignity and security.
The attacks of Sept. 11 force us to look at the world afresh
and strengthen our resolve to overcome its injustices. And he
is right now to do anything to try to push the Middle East peace
process forwardhowever dark the auguries may seem.