No peace in sight in the Middle East

Since Arafat's passing last month, a faint breeze of optimism has been blowing in the Middle East. Three members of the Quartet —the UN, Europe and Russia— are preparing for the signing of a peace agreement next year, or even just after the Palestinian elections in January. Thankfully, the US through the wisdom of its president George W Bush, is much more cautious. Considering the history of the region, this is a more rational expectation.

Interestingly enough, the American Enterprise Institute organized a conference yesterday called 'After Arafat: prospects for Israeli—Palestinian peace.'  The panelists were Robert Satloff, Executive Director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Israeli Brigadier General Michael Herzog, who participated in multiple peace negotiations, and Said Arikat, a Palestinian journalist for Al Quds .

This debate was revealing of the prospects of peace in the future, and shined light on why peace was never achieved in the first place. The very soft—spoken Israeli Brigadier General Herzog was cautiously optimistic, promoting Sharon's disengagement plan from Gaza and the possible ensuing vision of two states living side by side in peace. Then came Mr. Arikat's turn to speak and we were in for a surprise! Mr. Arikat, after giving a very rosy and very twisted depiction of Master terrorist Yasser Arafat, went on to criticize him. But not in the way you would think. No! For Arikat, Arafat's biggest mistake was to accept Oslo and the peace process with Israel. According to Arikat, Arafat was only focused on Israel's security and did not care about Israel 'grabbing more land' and stealing away his country.

It has been now widely documented that Oslo was Arafat' s Trojan horse, and that he fomented the terrorist war which started in September 2000 and killed over 1,000 Israelis, mostly civilians murdered in suicide bombings attacks. Then Arikat went on with the usual deformation of truth in a very one—sided presentation where Israel was portrayed as the big bad wolf and Palestinians as innocent sheep. It is mind—boggling to me that this kind of intransigence is still very much alive among Palestinians. Arikat said that Palestinians should accept 'no less than 100% of the West Bank and Gaza,' and that the right of return of 4 million refugees is non—negotiable because 'the world community' has recognized it.

By stating this outright lie, Arikat acknowledged that he is in fact for the one state solution, which would de facto signify Israel's death as a Jewish state. Arikat also kept on pounding on the table that the occupation is atrocious and is the root of all evil. He even said that the occupation was' the most violent thing' totally forgetting about Palestinian terrorism, which is clearly non—violent, apparently in his eyes, at least.

Robert Satloff, always a moderate and balanced voice, tried to show some restraint about the current unbridled enthusiasm of some in the world community. According to Satloff, Israel should not be going full blast into direct negotiations before the Gaza disengagement is finished and the Palestinian Authority has been democratized. This is also the line of conduct that President Bush recently outlined for the US diplomacy: first and foremost real democracy before a Palestinian state can emerge.

During the Questions and Answers session, a very aggressive representative of the Palestinian Mission in the US verbally attacked Satloff. This man in his thirties called Satloff 'racist' because he had mentioned that Gaza would be a test to see if Palestinians had a change of heart.

There is some reason to be optimistic with the major warming of relations between Egypt and Israel: Mubarak calling Sharon 'the Palestinians' best chance for peace.' What matters the most is the future stance of the Palestinians. Reading Steven Stalinsky's piece  in National Review, one can only realize that Arafat's heirs — the old guard from Tunis — are not far from the terror master. So between an Abu Mazen, a Holocaust denier, and a Marwan Barghouti — representing the young guard — who still calls for an armed struggle against Israel, it is very difficult to be optimistic. That is exactly what I experienced first hand today with Arikat representing the old guard and the man from the Palestine mission representing the new guard, both rejecting realistic peace in no uncertain terms.

Brigadier General Herzog had the last word when he said that he sees the glass 'half full' and Arikat 'half empty.' If this is the vision of the new upcoming Palestinian leadership, then no peace is in sight. Furthermore, the new generation of Palestinians has been indoctrinated with extreme hatred, so our best hope remains in the one that is not born yet.  

The recipe for peace is very simple. It was given by one of the best cooks — who happened to be a Prime Minister and loved to receive all the dignitaries in her kitchen — the late Golda Meir who said: 'The day we will have peace with the Arabs is the day they will love their children more than they hate us'. With so many Palestinian parents sending their children to kill themselves and murder the maximum number of Israelis, what could be truer? It is time for everyone to listen to a very wise cook.

Olivier Guitta is a freelance writer specialized in the Middle East and Europe.

Since Arafat's passing last month, a faint breeze of optimism has been blowing in the Middle East. Three members of the Quartet —the UN, Europe and Russia— are preparing for the signing of a peace agreement next year, or even just after the Palestinian elections in January. Thankfully, the US through the wisdom of its president George W Bush, is much more cautious. Considering the history of the region, this is a more rational expectation.

Interestingly enough, the American Enterprise Institute organized a conference yesterday called 'After Arafat: prospects for Israeli—Palestinian peace.'  The panelists were Robert Satloff, Executive Director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Israeli Brigadier General Michael Herzog, who participated in multiple peace negotiations, and Said Arikat, a Palestinian journalist for Al Quds .

This debate was revealing of the prospects of peace in the future, and shined light on why peace was never achieved in the first place. The very soft—spoken Israeli Brigadier General Herzog was cautiously optimistic, promoting Sharon's disengagement plan from Gaza and the possible ensuing vision of two states living side by side in peace. Then came Mr. Arikat's turn to speak and we were in for a surprise! Mr. Arikat, after giving a very rosy and very twisted depiction of Master terrorist Yasser Arafat, went on to criticize him. But not in the way you would think. No! For Arikat, Arafat's biggest mistake was to accept Oslo and the peace process with Israel. According to Arikat, Arafat was only focused on Israel's security and did not care about Israel 'grabbing more land' and stealing away his country.

It has been now widely documented that Oslo was Arafat' s Trojan horse, and that he fomented the terrorist war which started in September 2000 and killed over 1,000 Israelis, mostly civilians murdered in suicide bombings attacks. Then Arikat went on with the usual deformation of truth in a very one—sided presentation where Israel was portrayed as the big bad wolf and Palestinians as innocent sheep. It is mind—boggling to me that this kind of intransigence is still very much alive among Palestinians. Arikat said that Palestinians should accept 'no less than 100% of the West Bank and Gaza,' and that the right of return of 4 million refugees is non—negotiable because 'the world community' has recognized it.

By stating this outright lie, Arikat acknowledged that he is in fact for the one state solution, which would de facto signify Israel's death as a Jewish state. Arikat also kept on pounding on the table that the occupation is atrocious and is the root of all evil. He even said that the occupation was' the most violent thing' totally forgetting about Palestinian terrorism, which is clearly non—violent, apparently in his eyes, at least.

Robert Satloff, always a moderate and balanced voice, tried to show some restraint about the current unbridled enthusiasm of some in the world community. According to Satloff, Israel should not be going full blast into direct negotiations before the Gaza disengagement is finished and the Palestinian Authority has been democratized. This is also the line of conduct that President Bush recently outlined for the US diplomacy: first and foremost real democracy before a Palestinian state can emerge.

During the Questions and Answers session, a very aggressive representative of the Palestinian Mission in the US verbally attacked Satloff. This man in his thirties called Satloff 'racist' because he had mentioned that Gaza would be a test to see if Palestinians had a change of heart.

There is some reason to be optimistic with the major warming of relations between Egypt and Israel: Mubarak calling Sharon 'the Palestinians' best chance for peace.' What matters the most is the future stance of the Palestinians. Reading Steven Stalinsky's piece  in National Review, one can only realize that Arafat's heirs — the old guard from Tunis — are not far from the terror master. So between an Abu Mazen, a Holocaust denier, and a Marwan Barghouti — representing the young guard — who still calls for an armed struggle against Israel, it is very difficult to be optimistic. That is exactly what I experienced first hand today with Arikat representing the old guard and the man from the Palestine mission representing the new guard, both rejecting realistic peace in no uncertain terms.

Brigadier General Herzog had the last word when he said that he sees the glass 'half full' and Arikat 'half empty.' If this is the vision of the new upcoming Palestinian leadership, then no peace is in sight. Furthermore, the new generation of Palestinians has been indoctrinated with extreme hatred, so our best hope remains in the one that is not born yet.  

The recipe for peace is very simple. It was given by one of the best cooks — who happened to be a Prime Minister and loved to receive all the dignitaries in her kitchen — the late Golda Meir who said: 'The day we will have peace with the Arabs is the day they will love their children more than they hate us'. With so many Palestinian parents sending their children to kill themselves and murder the maximum number of Israelis, what could be truer? It is time for everyone to listen to a very wise cook.

Olivier Guitta is a freelance writer specialized in the Middle East and Europe.