What matters most in the Middle East is peace on the ground

Share

Perhaps the threat by Ehud Barak, Israel's Prime Minister, to scrap the entire peacemaking process will succeed where negotiations, exhortations and summits have failed, and halt the spiral of violence that has taken more than 80 lives and threatens to undo seven arduous years of search for a settlement between Israelis and Palestinians. But it would be unwise to bank on it.

Perhaps the threat by Ehud Barak, Israel's Prime Minister, to scrap the entire peacemaking process will succeed where negotiations, exhortations and summits have failed, and halt the spiral of violence that has taken more than 80 lives and threatens to undo seven arduous years of search for a settlement between Israelis and Palestinians. But it would be unwise to bank on it.

The situation in the Middle East is as dangerous as at any time since the early 1980s. The risk is not of another full-scale war to join 1967 and 1973 in the history books. That is something no responsible Arab leader wants - not least because, after the demise of the Arabs' main patron, the Soviet Union, Israel's relative regional power is greater than ever.

Instead, Israel is embroiled today in three small wars: with the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, with previously docile Israeli Arabs in Israel proper, and with Islamic guerrillas, backed by Syria and Iran, on the all too familiar proxy battlefield of Lebanon. Unchecked, these are likely to breed equally familiar consequences: renewed instability in Lebanon, a strengthening of Islamic fundamentalism across the Arab world, more terrorism, more scope for Saddam Hussein to make mischief and - who knows? - as in 1973, an Arab oil embargo against Israel's overt supporters. Worst of all, Mr Barak's threat to scuttle the entire "peace process" would become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The present crisis is born of a lethal cocktail of ingredients: the pent-up grievances of the Palestinian people, which the failure of July's summit at Camp David and now the domestic political weakness of President Arafat and Prime Minister Barak have compounded, inhibiting each man from making more concessions to the other and from standing up to the extremists in his own camp.

Apportioning blame, however, is futile. There have been mistakes, and most of them, it is true, have been on Israel's side, starting with the deliberately provocative visit by Ariel Sharon to the holy Islamic sites of Jerusalem, followed by Mr Barak's refusal to join Yasser Arafat and Madeleine Albright at last Thursday's summit in Egypt, and his refusal to permit a genuinely neutral investigation into the causes of the latest violence.

But the Palestinians have erred, too, in failing to grasp the groundbreaking nature of the proposals on Jerusalem that Mr Barak took to Camp David, and in allowing themselves to be seduced by their own rhetoric - without a shred of evidence from past Israeli behaviour to support it - that with one more heave at the barricades, their cause could prevail.

Now, the violence must stop. No new magic ingredients are to hand. What is needed is the utmost restraint on the Israeli side, a realisation by Mr Arafat that his people have nothing to gain by prolonging the unrest, and the exertion by the United States of every diplomatic pressure, on Israel as well as the Palestinians, to broker peace. By "peace", we do not mean the agreement that President Clinton once dreamt would secure his place in history; what matters is a limited peace on the ground, to keep the faint, flickering hope of a final settlement alive. The Middle East must be wrested back from the extremists.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: In House Counsel - Contracts

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of compliance software a...

Recruitment Genius: Associate System Engineer

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Associate System Engineer r...

Recruitment Genius: Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Executive Assistant is required to join a l...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Zoe Sugg, aka Zoella, with her boyfriend, fellow vlogger Alfie Deyes  

If children are obese then blame food manufacturers, not Zoella

Jane Merrick
Amos Yee arrives with his father at the State courts in Singapore on March 31  

Singapore's arrest of a 16-year-old YouTuber is all you need to know about Lee Kuan Yew's legacy

Noah Sin
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat