Reaching across the divide (X)

by Salameh Nematt
Dear Akiva,

Let me at first express my sincere admiration for your determination to remain hopeful and optimistic, despite everything. I admit, as you rightly pointed out, that my last letter was "pervaded by pessimism, verging on despair". Perhaps, it would've been even easier for me today to prove to you that my pessimism was well-placed, by pointing out to the latest round of bloody infighting on the Palestinian side, between Fatah and Hamas, rendering the Palestinians even less capable than ever, to take steps towards making peace with their Israeli neighbours. But I've decided to shed my pessimism aside, and to try to see a silver lining in this cloud hanging over the entire Middle East.

For a start, it looks as though regional and international players are more interested in reviving some kind of a peace process, despite the local Palestinian and Israeli protagonists, who are paralysed by their respective internal political logjams. True, both peoples ultimately want a peaceful co-existence that is based on some kind of a perceived fairness and justice, but the leaderships, on both sides, are divided, paralysed and not ready, yet. But the American administration, and its European allies, don't seem to be willing to give up. Arab players such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, have re-launched their drive for a comprehensive peace based on the latest Arab summit's endorsement of the peace initiative originally proposed by Saudi Arabia. Granted, there are also regional saboteurs lurking around the corner, trying to undermine the process…

Take the recent exchange that took place at the World Economic Forum in Jordan over the Arab peace initiative. While Saudi Arabia and Jordan defended it, the Iranians predicted its failure. All of a sudden, the Persians feel that they are entitled to be the guardians of Arab aspirations in Palestine, as well as in Iraq. Here is what Iran's foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki said of the peace plan that calls for normalized ties between Israel and the Arab world in return for a full Israeli withdrawal from lands occupied in the 1967 Six-Day War, including East Jerusalem, and a withdrawal from the Golan Heights in Syria and some territories in southern Lebanon:

"Despite the good [intentions] of some countries and some parties to protect the right of Palestinians, we do believe that either due to the plans or due to the other side's approach, all of those plans will fail," he said at the conference, as quoted by Ha'aretz. "If we talk based on realities, I do not see any chance," Mottaki added.

As if prospects for peace need more saboteurs than we have already on the Palestinian and Israeli sides, we now have the Iranians trying to outdo the local rejectionists in their opposition to a peaceful settlement in the Middle East. It seems as though Tehran can only thrive on conflict in the region to push forward its own agenda aimed at dominating the Arab region. Luckily, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt are becoming increasingly aware of the dangers inherent in letting the regional discourse be taken over by the radicals, now led by Iran and its allies, including Syria and Hizbullah. But since all politics is ultimately local, the question remains: What can be done in the Israeli and Palestinian camps to move towards a reasonable end to this torment that has plagued so many generations?

I must admit disappointment at the failure of leaders on both sides to take bold steps to shake up the political dynamic. I've been hoping that the leaders of Jordan and Egypt would be less intimidated by the radicals and more willing to go the extra mile for peace by building on the Saudi initiative in a more visible and effective way. I was hoping for Israeli leaders to show willingness to accept the principle of ending the occupation of Palestinian territories and the establishment of a Palestinian state in accordance with the U.S. President's vision. We need for these leaders to show that they are capable of leading their people rather than remaining hostages of a bitter and desperate public opinion that sees any logical concession as unacceptable compromise. You and I, my friend, can keep the torch lit, but we need our leaders to show some boldness, a vision that is courageous enough to change the course of history for the better. We must keep the pressure on these leaders to find creative ways to reclaim the initiative from the radicals and the rejectionists. It is their responsibility to lead and it is their place in history they need to think about. Had the peacemakers been half as bold as the saboteurs and nihilists, we would've been in a much better place today. Peace needs to have its militant advocates, much as the warmongers have theirs…

As I write these words, dear Akiva, I am saddened that this may be our last exchange. I may not have been the most enthusiastic peace advocate of late, but you have revived my hopes, for which I am grateful. Carry on, my friend. It is people like you who keep people like me hopeful.

Warm Wishes,



* Salameh Nematt is a political analyst writing for Al Hayat International Arab newspaper ( This article is distributed by the Common Ground News Service (CGNews) and can be accessed at

Source: Common Ground News Service (CGNews), 24 May 2007,
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A plea for peace from a bereaved Palestinian father
When will it all end?
Reaching across the divide (I)
Reaching across the divide (II)
Reaching across the divide (III)
Reaching across the divide (IV)
Reaching across the divide (V)
Reaching across the divide (VI)
Reaching across the divide (VII)
Reaching across the divide (VIII)
Reaching across the divide (IX)
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Other articles in this series

A plea for peace from a bereaved Palestinian father by Bassam Aramin
When will it all end? by Gershon Baskin
Reaching across the divide (I) by Salameh Nematt
Reaching across the divide (II) by Akiva Eldar
Reaching across the divide (III) by Akiva Eldar
Reaching across the divide (IV) by Salameh Nematt
Reaching across the divide (V) by Salameh Nematt
Reaching across the divide (VI) by Akiva Eldar
Reaching across the divide (VII) by Salameh Nematt
Reaching across the divide (VIII) by Akiva Eldar
Reaching across the divide (IX) by Akiva Eldar