Elusive Peace in the Middle East
Another Christmas season is upon us, but sadly prospects for peace in the holy land during the New Year are bleak. People on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute have become exceedingly frustrated with the endless impasse and government peace agreements that produce no results.
One thing is certain: U.S. involvement in the deadly conflict has led nowhere. The federal government has spent tens of billions of U.S. tax dollars in the region, and a succession of presidents have held peace summits with Middle Eastern leaders, all to no avail. The endless supply of American money, however well-intentioned, gives the leaders of both sides a perverse incentive to remain engaged in the process indefinitely.
The “Geneva Accord,” a document released earlier this month, represents an attempt to craft an alternative peace plan for the intractable dispute. The Accord is unique in that it was conceived and written by representatives of both sides of the conflict, but wholly without the involvement of governments or politicians. Governments, politicians, and special interests often promote conflict at the expense of ordinary people, so the promise of the Geneva Accord is that it more closely represents the interests of those most affected by the ongoing violence.
Predictably, the Geneva Accord has been greeted with hostility by those who have a stake in maintaining the status quo. Palestinian leader Arafat has shown little enthusiasm for the plan; extremist Arab terrorist organizations of course oppose it altogether. Israeli Prime Minister Sharon has rejected it out of hand. But the victims in Israel and Palestine, the ordinary people who must live with the violence and danger, are starting to demand peace. Popular support for the Geneva Accord is growing among both the Israeli and Palestinian populations. People are beginning to understand that peace is too important to be left up to government officials, most of whom are safely insulated from the daily violence.
President Bush and Secretary of State Powell, to their credit, have praised the Geneva Accord. The president termed the Accord “productive,” while the secretary stated he “Has an obligation to listen to individuals who have interesting ideas.” This is encouraging. Still, the impulse that demands American engagement is strong. One congressional leader scoffed at what he termed a “freelance peace plan,” but his sarcasm ignores the utter failure of “official” peace efforts. He also fails to understand that America cannot impose its will upon every conflict around the globe. Lasting, effective peace agreements can be crafted only by those who will live under them.