Hope for peace in the Middle East breathed deeply this week in

CATEGORY: EDT Editorials


Hope for peace in the Middle East breathed deeply this week in a clearing atmosphere surrounding two pivotal parties Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Two steps one from each side create a bellwether opportunity. The Palestine National Council parliament-in-exile for stateless Palestinians removed from its charter a demand for the elimination of Israel. Israel responded with the dropping of objections to a Palestinian state by a congress of the ruling Labor Party.

The PLO covenant had called for the “liberation of Palestine” and destruction of the “Zionist and imperialist presence.”

One analysis noted that the language of the covenant seemed like a “relic” because with the Palestinians official occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip has come a daily interworking of government details between Israelis and Palestinians.

The internal politics of both Israel and the PLO played into the process. Prime Minister Shimon Peres needed and probably gained a strengthened hand heading toward the May 29 Israeli national elections. Arafat appointed 98 members of the Palestine council just before the vote to fill out vacancies. Arafat in so doing strengthened his hand in the PLO and in the peace process.

Not everyone is happy about the developments. Some within the PLO and its council oppose the acceptance of an Israeli state. Some within Israel’s largest opposition party don’t believe Arafat and the PLO can be trusted. An overwhelming majority of the Islamic Middle East believes Israel should not exist.

The two actions present a broader-than-ever possibility of official, peaceful co-existence. PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat and the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin set in motion the process in 1993 with the Israel-PLO agreement signed on the lawn of the White House. This week’s actions move the process into new grounds for negotiations.

The United States remains involved because our diplomatic and economic presence is a leveler, even in the stress of episodes like the current fighting in southern Lebanon involving Israel against terrorist groups. Every stone in a foundation for a broad peace increases optimism for a day when the United States no longer will have to pour billions of dollars into the region to help Israel and to support moderate Arab regimes.

The greater goal is the absence of almost daily bloodshed that has defined religious and national differences in the region for almost 50 years.

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