Fri, 16 Jun 2000

Mideast peace status

Hope for reaching a final peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority seems to be fading after Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erakat suspended talks with his Israeli counterpart on Thursday. The two sides were unable to reach agreement on key issues such as the release of Palestinian prisoners, the third interim Israeli troop withdrawal from the West Bank and permanent borders of a future Palestinian state.

Erakat said that the Israeli government did not want to implement the third troop reduction on June 23, that would leave the Palestinian Authority in full control of the West Bank.

Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy insisted that his government wanted to hand over another one percent of the West Bank as had been agreed earlier but that the Palestinians had demanded a larger relinquishment.

Surrounded by larger armies, that in the past have been quick to beat their shields, it is understandable the fear and reluctance that the Israelis have for relinquishing land that is strategic for their defense. It is also easy to understand the Palestinian's desire for their own state. And after more than 50 years without a homeland, it is not surprising that they want to accelerate the handover of "their" land.

It is necessary for Israel to overcome their fear and take the necessary step to move the peace process forward. There is no justification now for denying statehood to the Palestinians.

Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, prior to his meeting with U.S. President Bill Clinton on Friday, said that as there had been no progress in the talks with the Israeli government, he would ask President Clinton to "intervene immediately to save the peace process."

For Clinton -- who wishes to facilitate a glorious deed before ending his presidential term such as another Camp David-like agreement that successfully ends the animosity between the Palestinians and the Israelis -- a U.S.-brokered peace accord would obviously reaffirm Washington's influence in the Middle East.

With the disputing parties still unable or unwilling to take the necessary final steps, Washington's initiative to hold a tripartite summit of Arafat, Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak now appears to be necessary for the initiative to succeed. Aware of this, Clinton pointed out that he never ruled out the tripartite meeting, but he called on the Israeli and the Palestinian leaders to first narrow their differences.

Given all this, it seems that the Palestinian and the Israeli leaders will have to traverse a long and winding road before they can arrive at a position, comfortable to both sides, where there truly final peace status.

It is expected that both disputing parties could reach a compromise, ensuring the success of the peace process as well the declaration of a long-dreamt Palestinian state.

We are of the opinion that failure to reach peace will only harbor more hatred among the two peoples in the region and could spark violence that eventually endangers both the Israelis and Palestinians.