Nizar Abdel-Kader, columnist and political analyst at Ad-Diyar, writes about the challenges of the current window of opportunity and what the parties need to do to overcome them. "On each side there are two competing movements: one calling for seizing the opportunity to resume the peace process, and the other doing everything possible to destroy it. [...] The actions of the Israelis, the Palestinians and the US will decide the future of this peace opportunity."
Hady Amr, Co-President of the Arab Western Summit of Skills, remarks on a report written for the Advisory Committee on U.S. Relations with the Arab World for the Centre for Strategic and International Studies. "What is remarkable about the effort is how it was carried out. It's a model that can be replicated in finding ways for Americans to help Israelis and Palestinians move beyond their differences."
President of the Washington-based American Task Force on Palestine, Dr. Ziad Asali shares his perspective on the critical steps required to sustain a fragile window of opportunity for peace and elaborates on what he thinks Israelis, Palestinians, and Americans need to do to maintain the positive momentum.
Naomi Chazan, Professor of Political Science and former Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, writes, "The opportunity which emerged after the death of Yasser Arafat, the election of Mahmoud Abbas as the new president of the Palestinian Authority, and the approval of the Sharon disengagement plan, is dissipating quickly. [...] Only a collaborative salvage operation based on a multi-faceted strategy and a multi-layered group of actors can reverse a trend that threatens to thoroughly destabilize the region and compromise the future of all those involved."
Palestinian Journalist and commentator Mohammad Daraghmeh, while addressing the nature of the ceasefire, comments on recent political developments in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the opportunities and challenges that have emerged as a result. "The two parties have discovered, despite the wide gap between them, an area of common interest that fulfils a joint and urgent need for both of them: their interest in putting an end to violence."
Khaled Duzdar, Palestinian co-director of the strategic affairs unit of IPCRI, lists instances of good in the current situation, such as "when the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships share common interests to put an end to violence and conflict;" examples of bad, such as "what we are facing today – an impasse;" and cases of ugly, as "when the US President fails to lead a peace process and fails..." "We have seen too much of the bad and the ugly; it is time for some of the good to come our way."
Jason Erb, of the Quaker Service-AFSC in Amman, wonders if there is anything different in this time of optimism that may indicate a truly historic opportunity to achieve peace. "Windows of opportunity in Israel and Palestine are slippery, based more on people's perceptions than on concrete changes." He acknowledges that, "[m]any political stars are aligning that improve chances to end one of the world's longest running conflicts [...] What is still missing, however, are efforts to build popular domestic consensus and support among Israeli and Palestinian populations for the painful choices that a final settlement will entail."
Canadian Globe and Mail columnist Shira Herzog offers her opinion on what a “window of opportunity” actually means, what separates Israeli Prime Minister Sharon and Palestinian Authority President Abbas and the challenges that both leaders face, including settlement expansion, right of return for Palestinians refugees and the balance of power between Fatah and Hamas.
Saad Eddin Ibrahim, Egyptian pro-democracy and peace activist, writes about the upcoming Gaza disengagement and the yet uncertain fate of the settlement buildings. "Whether the buildings are destroyed or saved, the essential ingredient for success is Palestinian involvement and an open and transparent process to determine what is best to help improve the sordid living conditions of the Palestinian people. [...] What may be needed is the help of a third party, in the form of an NGO, another country, the World Bank or the broader international community. [...] [T]he most important role a third party can play is in helping facilitate an open decision-making process that will make the best decisions for the welfare of the Palestinian people."
The opportunities for a successful breakthrough in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict are so high, that one is afraid to talk about it so as not to jinx the chances for peace. But, superstition aside, and if we wish to make sure that this present opportunity is not missed, the success in the peace process will depend in a large part on lessons learned from previous failures.”
"It has often been assumed that the problem of Jerusalem is exceptionally difficult because of religious claims made upon the Holy City and its holy sites by members of the three monotheistic religions." Jonathan Kuttab, Jerusalem-based Palestinian human rights lawyer and peace activist, paints a different picture. "Without denigrating the important emotional, and indeed spiritual, significance of holy sites and shrines, and pilgrimage to them, one can still find within each of the three monotheistic faiths religious principles that reject as idolatrous the adamant exclusivity regarding the holy sites in Jerusalem." "...it is perhaps incumbent upon religious leaders from each religion to emphasize these tolerant elements and to insist that true spirituality does not come with specific, much less exclusivist, territorial claims over Jerusalem or its religious shrines..."
Rabbi David Rosen, International Director of Interreligious Affairs for the American Jewish Committee, elucidates recent interreligious activities that promote peace and comments on the complimentary roles of religious and political paths to peace. “While religion may not be able to initiate a political resolution of the conflict, it is an essential component for a successful political process, providing the psycho-spiritual glue for long-lasting and effective peace.”
Hazem Saghiyeh, commentator and columnist for the Arabic newspaper al-Hayat, shares his insights on the recent developments in the Middle East and comments on how Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has proven that "politics works even in a region [...] ravaged by violence, mutual fears and other conditions that operate against it."
Michael Young, opinion page editor of the Daily Star newspaper in Beirut and contributing editor of Reason magazine in the United States, shares his insights on the need to define a new status for refugees in Lebanon, in order to better integrate them into Lebanese life and improve their sordid living conditions. He also notes that worthwhile steps can be taken by neighboring Arab countries to facilitate talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis on the issue of refugees.
Dov S. Zakheim, former Under Secretary of Defence and Board Member of Search for Common Ground, writes that the recent positive developments in the Middle East have only occurred over the past several months, and notes that not enough time has passed for them to take root. "Nevertheless, if the international community is generous in providing the material, moral and financial wherewithal so as to nurture the various elements of civil society throughout the Middle East, the timeline of progress could be significantly foreshortened. And everyone, not only the people of the region, will benefit if that occurs."
The women of Tunisia have a decisive role to play in shaping Tunisia's future. Fatma Ben Saïdane reminds women of the power of their vote and the importance of civic engagement.
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