London conference a good first step

Posted: Thursday, March 03, 2005

Tony Blair struck an optimistic note at

yesterday's London meeting in support of the Palestinian Authority, talking of a 'moment of opportunity' in the Middle East. In one sense he is absolutely right. Since last November several events have conspired to generate a rare sense of hope about this most intractable of conflicts. ... Moving ahead, though, is difficult and dangerous. That is why it was easier to say what the London event was not: it was not the grand peace conference Mr. Blair originally wanted, nor the relaunch of the stalled internationally backed 'road map' to peace. ... The meeting, nevertheless, did what it set out to do. It created a U.S.-led team to help the Palestinians streamline their rickety and overlapping security services and coordinate better with the Israelis. The EU and the World Bank promised to help with reconstructing the Palestinian economy. ... The Palestinians, urged to crack down on violence, felt this point had not been made forcefully enough to the Israelis. There was a sense of one-sidedness, too, in the emphasis on reform as a necessary prelude to a resumption of negotiations. ... Mr. Blair, taking a global view, was right to warn that Palestine 'is probably the cause most used or abused by those who try to rally support for extremism.' All the more reason, then, after a practical start in London, to press on with what he called the 'patient, hard slog' of building trust, and perhaps winning a priceless peace.

— The Guardian (London), March 2

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