Peace in the Middle East Will Come from Within

(Financial Times-UK) Shlomo Avineri - After almost four years of total rupture, Israeli and Palestinian leaders have met and agreed to a cessation of violence; Egypt's president, who for years has avoided contacts with Israel's prime minister, has not only invited him to Egypt but hailed him as the key to peace. What is so significant is that this has not been achieved through U.S. or EU mediation but because of the emergence of local will on the part of the two main participants. For years observers have urged the Bush administration to "be more active," to "put pressure on Israel," and to "activate" the road map. Yet only when the local players decided it was in their interest to move forward did this happen. Arafat's death signified a sea change in local Palestinian politics. All of a sudden it became clear that, if he wishes, a Palestinian leader can denounce suicide bombers - rather than rhapsodize them as martyrs - deploy his armed security services to stop them as well as publicly call for a cessation of violence. All agreements between Israel and its Arab neighbors were reached only when the local leaders had the political will to proceed. The peace treaty with Egypt, the Oslo accords, and the peace with Jordan were all outcomes of bilateral talks, not American prodding. Outside forces can, as Jimmy Carter did in 1978 with Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin, make the parties go the extra mile, but first the local will must be there. Nations do not decide on their future simply in response to outside intervention, be it U.S. pressure or EU preaching. The writer is professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and former director-general of Israel's ministry of foreign affairs.

2005-02-11 00:00:00

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