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The Israeli-Palestinian Summit: Great Expectations


The Sharm El Sheikh summit being held today could be the start of a new era in more ways than one, or it could prove to be yet another agonizing disappointment.

It could be that peace is about to break out in the Middle East, or it could be like that other Sharm El Sheikh summit in October of 2000, when Yasser Arafat solemnly promised to put an end to the violence, but the violence just got worse as soon as the summit ended. "Deja vu all over again" as the man said.

What to look for at the conference or in the coming month:

  • An announcement by Palestinian President Abbas that the Intifada has ended.
  • An announcement by Israeli PM Sharon that Israel is releasing a large number of Palestinian prisoners.
  • An announcement by Israeli PM Sharon that Israel is suspending or ending the targeted assassinations and military operations in the West Bank and Gaza.
  • Announcements by both sides that security cooperation will be intensified.

What to hope for:

  • An announcement by Egypt's President Mubarak that Egypt is returning its ambassador to Israel.
  • An announcement by Jordan's King Abdullah that Jordan is returning its ambassador to Israel.
  • An announcement by Israeli PM Sharon that Israel is withdrawing its troops from Ramallah.
  • An announcement of Egyptian security cooperation in Gaza.
  • An announcement of Jordanian security cooperation in the West Bank.

You can grade the summit's success, in part, according to which of the above really happen. Reports indicate that both sides have agreed to "end violence" and made rosy statements about peace, though the specifics of what was promised have not been detailed. However, the proof of the summit will be in the doing, over the next weeks and months, and not in the speechifying, so it probably doesn't matter so much if I write about it before or after the actual meetings, communiques and photo opportunities. We won't know if the summit was a success for quite a while.

There are a number of noteworthy differences between this summit and the summit of October 2000. The chief difference is that the United States was conspicuous by its absence. For the first time, if I am not mistaken, there has been a major multilateral regional initiative for peace between Israel and the Arabs that does not directly involve the US or Europe. If it works, it will be a sign that the Middle East, or this part of it, is growing up, and is starting to take its first real steps on the road to regional unity and sanity. This could be the real beginning of the "new Middle East."

The second difference is that the expectations of the parties were not high. Previous meetings of this type promissed the "end of days" tomorrow, a messianic vision of peace on Earth, modeled on the grand style originated by Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, and carried on by President Clinton. "No More War, No More Suffering, No More Bloodshed." This time, there will be no Nobel prizes. This time, the parties are hoping for simple things: an end to shooting and bombing, release of Palestinian prisoners, Israeli withdrawals from Palestinian cities and toning down of Palestinian rhetoric. A quiet and businesslike agenda with little fanfare and hopefully, a lot of trust buildng.

The third difference is that Yasser Arafat is gone. Gilead Sher, a Barak aide who attended the ill-fated conference in October 2000, recently noted with some bitterness that it was the failure of that conference which convinced him that no agreements made with Arafat would be kept. The success of this conference in actually bringing peace is a crucial test for both Mahmoud Abbas and Ariel Sharon.

At the conference, Mahmoud Abbas said:

"We have agreed with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to cease all acts of violence against Israelis and Palestinians wherever they are...

The calm which will prevail in our lands starting from today is the beginning of a new era.

And Ariel Sharon said,

Sharon said: "For the first time in a long time there is hope in our region for a better future for us and our grandchildren."

If it is all true, then indeed this has been a good day for the folks in the white hats. But if the nightmare is over, a lot of people will find themselves and their views irrelevant. What would the Electronic Intifada Web site do if there is no Intifada? If the Palestinian government is against "resistance" then what is to become of all the "Solidarity" movements that support violent "resistance?" And what will right-wing Zionist groups like the ZOA do now that their policies are opposed to those of the Israeli government? All those people, not to mention the settlers, the Hamas and Islamic Jihad find their jobs and their identities threatened by the new order. They won't like it, and they will do their best to sabotage it.

We want to be optimistic, but the uneasy Palestinian-Israeli truce depends on the good will of the Hamas and other extremists, since Abbas has repeatedly said he will not put down terror by force. Yesterday, the IDF caught a would-be woman suicide bomber, on the way to carry out her "holy mission" to wreck the peace talks. Shots were fired at a convoy in the West Bank today. On the Israeli side, withdrawal and concessions to Palestinians depends on the good will of right-wing politicians and the rickety coalition government of Ariel Sharon. There are big IFs on both sides, but we have nothing to lose by hoping except the bitterness of disappointment. Peace between Israel and the Palestinians may be as hard to come by as snow in Jerusalem, but it is snowing in Jerusalem today.

Ami Isseroff

New resource at MidEastWeb -
Hebrew-Arabic mini-Dictionary - Hebrew and Arabic are sister Semitic languages. Here is a list of some of the similar words in both languages, to remind us that we are close cousins in culture and in origins.

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Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000330.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

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Replies: 6 comments

Do you have a personal vendetta against the electronic intifada website. It is not like you to go out and attack them on more than one occassion.

Posted by Butros Dahu @ 02/08/2005 07:30 PM CST

As AMi Isseroff says, "It is snowing in Jerusalem", and so, it is with heavyheart that I beleive that a peace will come,and last. And as for the first person who commented about Indymedia, is a site where lies, distorted history, and racism abound, and it's accuracy is questionable. If you cannot understand why Mr. isseroff has his opinions about this webiste, then you are not reading your history!

Posted by Allyson @ 02/08/2005 09:43 PM CST

Do not stop insulting Arafat if this helps peace by allowing Sharon to honourably change 180 degrees his stance of 2000.

Posted by Aleph @ 02/09/2005 01:20 PM CST

My comments as to the Sharm el-Sheik meeting can be described by an article which I sent to my list:

Moshe Sheskin

It was the kind of day where one would prefer to stay home rather than face the elements. Gloom, wind and rain didn’t dampen our spirits, although the rain was welcome, it was overshadowed by the treachery that was carried out in Sharm el-Sheikh. Our Prime Minister Sharon and his coalition have decided that there will be a so called peace at any cost and to prove it, he has accepted the word of the Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, that all acts of violence against all Israelis everywhere will be stopped. Sharon has decided to welcome Hudna, a temporary truce, and temporary it will be because in another ten years and maybe less, it will start all over again but not until the Palestinians will feel that they are strong enough to take on Israel. The smuggling of weapons will continue no doubt with the help of the Egyptians who have their own agenda.
Meanwhile the great white father in Washington, President George Bush, is happy that the road map which he has been pushing may become a reality and his dream of democracy in this part of the world has blinded him to the fact that the Arab hate of Israel is so ingrained that to trust them with our lives is tantamount to suicide. The Imams spout their venom at every turn and Abbas has shown himself that when it comes to rhetoric, he is no rank amateur. Abbas, is another version of his dead partner Arafat except in civilian clothes who gives the impression of respectability and has successfully pulled the blindfold over Israel’s leaders.
Now, thousands of prisoners will be released to once more plow their terrorist trade but what awaits us may be even more tragic. I guess we’ll have to wait to see if a continuous passage to the so called West Bank from Gaza will split us in two. We will agonize over the status of Jerusalem and nobody can say how many exaggerated Palestinians refugees will cross our border on the so-called ‘right of return’.
However, take heart. All is not lost. We have now been honored by the return of the Jordanian and Egyptian ambassadors. Glory Hallelujah! You see, there is hope.

Posted by moshe sheskin @ 02/09/2005 03:17 PM CST

Some comments on comments -
Do I have a personal vendetta against Electronic Intifada? Perhaps. Abu Nimah wants to wipe me out. He says it is OK for Arabs and Palestinians to be nationalist, but Jewish nationalism is racism. He has announced himself as against peace in any form. His Web site is filled with war mongering, and half-truths or worse. When someone wants to murder me, I take it "personally."

Seshkin should confine his views to his own Web site. Artlcles for MEW are are reviewed by editors, and I doubt if that one would have passed. However, as it is brief, and we want to encourage all sorts of opinions, I couldn't in fairness delete it. I wonder if he would give me the same courtesy.

Ami Isseroff

Posted by Ami Isseroff @ 02/16/2005 12:44 PM CST

I have been in Electronic Intifada website and "warmongering" is the minimum word that can be aplied and even a person like me who is always criticing jews for seeing antisemitism everywere, can see tons of antisemitism there(as instrumental as you want but at the end fo the day as antisemitism as antisemitism).

Posted by Aleph @ 02/17/2005 04:34 PM CST


Posted by izaac @ 02/20/2005 01:13 PM CST

In reference to your article about the “Israeli-Palestinian Summit: Great Expectations,” on February 12th: should peace ever be capable in such a region, then optimism is a necessity. Particularly in the differences between the October 2000 summit and this year’s recent summit, it is unfair to say that high expectations were held before. You note that in 2005 they desire the small things, but yet isn’t that why Israel has always wanted? Isn’t that why they’ve spent centuries in an effort to initiate peace for? According to the resources at Middle East Web, both Israel and Egypt have wished for the same cease-fire since the 20th century summit negotiations. In answering your rhetorical questions, yes it is true that right-wing Zionist groups like ZOA will protest the new government, but in solving a lifetime of war between these two borders some groups will be sacrificed. As far as the rest of the ‘Solidarity’ movements, activistrights.org supports that Solidarity activists always started a revolution but are not currently in control of the government; Australia, Cuba, Poland. My point is that despite these small grass-roots organizations that seemingly are a threat to the peace-talks, it is internationally proven that Solidarity is a phase that will soon pass. I whole-heartedly agree with Ariel Sharon in that the 2005 peace-talks without the United States will be a new hope for the future children in the Israeli-Palestinian region. I also concur that the absence of the U.S. in these peace-talks will produce more results, as perhaps our one-sidedness towards Israel has hindered the possibility of peace. Either way, the 2005 summit of peace in the Middle East is something to be celebrated. Though we will not see the results any time soon, action needs to be taken and despite opposition peace will prevail. However, in order to achieve this peace I reiterate that optimism must be maintained. Such as your pessimistic attitude in your article, along with many delegates in this issue, nothing will ever come about unless a peaceful nation can be dreamed of.
Angela V.

Posted by Angela V. @ 02/22/2005 09:27 AM CST

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