Fresh ray of sunshine

THE dark clouds on the Middle East horizon are beginning to clear up. There is a fresh ray of sunshine on the horizon. Things are beginning to look up at last. US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice met Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on Monday in the West Bank and pledged $40m of aid in the next 90 days to the Palestinian Authority.

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Published: Tue 8 Feb 2005, 9:16 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 6:37 PM

She also promised US peace monitors. Abbas hoped his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Tuesday would help advance the process. Everybody interested in Middle East peace is now looking in eager anticipation at the scheduled meeting between Sharon and Abbas. There is renewed optimism and an expectation that things will work out this time. The Israeli-Palestinian meeting in Sharm el Sheik — without any US involvement — will be the highest level talks between the two sides since the Intifada broke out in September 2000.

It’s certainly not the first time that the two sides have met. The Camp David meeting between the then Israeli premier Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat in July 2000, catalysed by former US President Bill Clinton had raised fever-pitch expectations only to be dashed by the still lingering lack of trust between the two sides. Clinton was particularly disappointed by Arafat’s stance, but Arafat felt too little was being offered to him. In Clinton’s words: “Arafat was not ready for peace.” After Abbas’s donning the mantle of a new leader, these hopes have once again risen sky high. There is always the danger of hopes coming crumbling down if there are no concrete steps to back them. For hopes to fructify and dreams to be realised, new paths have to be laid on the ground. Palestinian renunciation of violence is a good first step, but it must be sustained and not a stop-gap measure.

Similarly, Israeli offers to withdraw the settlements should be achieved within a specified time frame. If things are allowed to drag on, violence can erupt again, caused by the denial of justice. So far, the moves made by both the sides look positive, and they must continue to not only look positive, but also feel and do positive. That is the challenge both the leaders face within their own constituencies and from their adversaries. Any wrong move and the whole situation can backfire. For the moment, everyone’s keeping their fingers crossed for today’s Sharon-Abbas meeting.

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