'Tis the season for optimism in the Middle East

What Others Say

Posted: Monday, December 06, 2004

How appropriate that, during the Christmas season, dramatic progress is being made toward Middle East peace.

It was impressive enough Friday when Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak hailed Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, whose policies he had previously blamed for triggering violence, as the Palestinians' best hope for peace.

Even more dramatic "stunning" and "historic" probably would be better words was an announcement by Hamas that it was, at least temporarily, stopping terrorism.

Until now, Hamas has been dedicated to destroying the state of Israel. It has killed hundreds of people in suicide bombings. It said it would boycott the Palestinian presidential elections.

Now, The Associated Press quotes its spokesman as saying Hamas will enter into a truce with Israel and presumably accept the Jewish state's right to exist in exchange for the establishment of a Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Furthermore, it will participate in the political process.

This, coming on the heels of Mahmoud Abbas' efforts to rein in terrorism, is enough to make even the most cynical Middle East observer almost giddy.

The next test will come in a month, when Palestinians vote for a president. If Abbas wins convincingly, it may be an indication that the people there want to live in peace with their Israeli neighbors.

One of the candidates, however, is Marwan Barghouti who is serving five life terms in an Israeli jail for West Bank shootings. If he does well, it may signify that terrorism has some popular support.

The Middle East is very volatile, of course, but there is reason for optimism.

The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville, Fla.)

Dec. 5

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