Arab-Israeli Peace - Stuck in Neutral

(Los Angeles Times) Aaron David Miller - There are many who are still pressing for big-time, end-game diplomacy, but reality argues otherwise. Four years of bloody conflict have left Palestinians and Israelis wary and bitter, unable or unwilling at the moment to strike the grand bargain necessary to end their conflict. That the Palestinian issue has lost its centrality - at least for now - is undeniable. Right now, the Middle East is rocked by much bigger ideas than ending the shepherds' war between Israelis and Palestinians. A much criticized U.S. invasion has traumatized the entire region and awoken a political culture that's been in a coma for half a century. That the fairest and freest elections ever held in the Arab world took place in Palestine and Iraq under Israeli and U.S. military occupations attest not only to the depth of dysfunction in Arab politics but also to the hunger for change. Simply put, there's almost no chance for a grand bargain now, and everyone, including the Arabs, knows it. Israel's historic decision to leave Gaza will most likely lead to a period of consolidation, not dramatic advance. Israel will need time to heal the self-inflicted political wounds of withdrawal; Palestinians will have their hands full managing Gaza. And the Bush administration, whose policies during its first term helped downgrade the Palestinian issue, is not likely to go for broke during its second. The administration believes (with some justification) that its benign neglect and pressure on the Palestinians to reform helped set the stage for progress.

2005-04-06 00:00:00

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