Tue, 07 Nov 2000

Obstacles to Mideast peace

There are forces on both sides who do not want peace, except on their own terms, without compromise. Until now, (Israeli Prime Minister Ehud) Barak has demonstrated he is serious about negotiating a lasting peace. He even floated the possibility of sharing Jerusalem, effectively two capitals alongside each other, as a way of overcoming the fundamental claim of both sides to sovereignty over the city.

Yet now Mr. Barak is weighed down by domestic politics, fighting for political survival since losing his parliamentary majority in July. His answer is to seek a coalition with the belligerent Likud Party right-winger Ariel Sharon, who equates compromise with weakness, despite Israel's obviously superior military strength. (Palestinian leader Yasser) Arafat too, despite lingering doubts about his good faith, in particular his preparedness to compromise over Jerusalem and threat to unilaterally declare a Palestinian state, is a man weighed down by internal factions that he needs to accommodate in order to maintain authority.

In the end, providing they remain in charge, Mr. Barak and Mr. Arafat must know that the other's continued leadership is the best chance of making peace.

-- The Sydney Morning Herald