Progress in Palestine

POLITICAL pundits should and will remain sceptical of even the seemingly 'unprecedented' advances in the Israeli-Palestinian equation till concrete results begin to emerge. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's first meeting with the new Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad featured all the ingredients of a cozy coming together, but considering screaming historical precedent, transforming the words into action will require compromises not mentioned on the to-do list.

Soon the Arab League will make its first-ever visit to Israel and the West, Israel and the League alike will offer incentives to bolster Fatah and give strength to Fayyad's new government. But they conveniently ignore that sidelined Hamas still controls the Gaza Strip, and its presence makes it too significant a player to merely brush aside with meeting-minutes. Livni stressed that the prime purpose of the new government and the new engagement revolves around the "situation in the Palestinian Authority and ways of improving the lives of the residents...while preserving Israeli security interests". It bears reminding that it is precisely because of the West's financial choke following Hamas' landslide victory in January 2006 that suffering Palestinians find themselves in the worst humanitarian condition in the long decades of the occupation.

Surely, punishing the people for exercising their ballot-choice reflects poorly on a West that insists a new Middle East shall have democracy and elections as its defining feature. And at the risk of repetition, Western involvement in the wider Middle East too indicates that pending opening doors of negotiations with all parties involved in conflicts, any progress is superficial at best.

Already, American-Israeli initiatives in the region have met with lacklustre results at best. An international community exhausted with politically correct rhetoric sheltering muscle use expects far greater pragmatism from those with the means to alter political trends across the world.

All parties in the new Israeli-Palestinian drama are reminded that progress in Palestine has remained elusive because people have had preferences of forces far away thrust on them from above. They are also cautioned that failing thorough engagement with all factors on the ground, the new round will just be another one which has the wind knocked out of it sooner or later.

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