Friday, October 29, 2004

Where are they now?

In 1994 Yitzhak Rabin, Yasser Arafat and Shimon Peres were jointly awarded the Nobel peace prize for concluding the Declaration of Principles for peaceful coexistence between Israel and Palestine. A year later (and just 9 years ago by the Hebrew calendar) Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by a national terrorist's bullet and today Yasser Arafat lies critically ill in a Paris hospital. Perhaps the old fox may elude even this most implacable of enemies but, if it is not to be, then he too must, like his Jewish counterpart, leave the conclusion of his legacy to his successors.

The original peace proposal came about because both sides recognised that they had fought too long, that no peoples should have to endure 50 years of war, death and the bitterness that bred more war, death and bitterness. That was ten years ago. Too much water has flowed under the bridge in that time. And far too much blood.

The Knesset has finally moved to implement that peace agreement (at leat in Gaza). It is not enough but it is an important beginning. That move has divided Ariel Sharon from much of his Likud party but brought him closer to mainstream Israeli opinion and to the Labour Party. It is fitting that Peres may have a more important role in the end-game (if such it proves to be) of the peace process he began. Liberals may find it less palatable that Sharon should be at its centre but that is not important. All that matters is that peace is achieved with honour and goodwill to both sides. It matters little by whose hands.

It is of course too soon to expect peace, but it is not too late to hope. Not just because that peace will make the whole world safer but because the people of Israel and Palestine have already suffered far too much. May that peace be the legacy of those who have died, the reward of those who bring it to pass and the hope of future generations of all nations in the middle east and in the world.


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