Conflict in Mideast offers new opportunity for peaceful resolution

Posted: Wednesday, January 23, 2002

One should not exaggerate the importance of the three-day meeting of Palestinian and Israeli delegates hosted by President Thabo Mbeki at Stellenbosch last week, nor the role South Africa can play in the resolution of that most intractable of conflicts. ...

At the same time, let's not underestimate the event's value. First, our own history highlights the importance of keeping communication channels open even -- perhaps especially -- when a peace process is going through a difficult period. Second, South Africa's experience offers critical lessons. ... Let us also not take the crass view that Mbeki is wasting his time on Mideast politics. Doing so does not preclude his focusing too on matters of local importance, including Zimbabwe. ...

Let us not forget, too, that like it or not, the politics of the Middle East is a local issue. We need only remember the ugly clashes last year between South African Jews and Muslims at the race conference in Durban. The sight of the Israelis, Palestinians and Mbeki engaging rationally in a quest for peace, with local Muslim and Jewish community leaders looking on at the conclusion of the meeting, surely helped repair some of the damage done at Durban.

--Business Day, Johannesburg

Jan. 15

American efforts to end more than 15 months of violence in the Middle East are hanging in the balance. Israeli ploys and Washington's tilt toward Tel Aviv are increasingly clouding prospects.

Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, under heavy foreign pressure, unleashed an unpopular crackdown on Palestinian activists. Islamic resistance groups Hamas and Jihad complied with Arafat's request to halt attacks against Israel. Now Arafat has kept his part of the bargain, a scheming Sharon felt that he would be asked to do likewise.

In an obvious bid for an exit, he uncovered what he thought would be his trump card. While American envoy Anthony Zinni was in the region for a fresh peacemaking trip, Sharon sought to eclipse, and even scuttle the mission with the announcement that his commandos had intercepted a ship loaded with weapons intended to be smuggled into the Palestinian self-rule zones.

Swayed by the Israeli's claims, the U.S. has jumped to conclusions. Last week, U.S. President George W. Bush said he was beginning to suspect that the vessel was meant to ''promote terror.'' However, he failed to take notice of the long-running Israeli terror.

--Egyptian Gazette

Jan. 15

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