Sunday, February 23, 2003
Where Blair and Bush differ - 23rd February 2003, 12.30

Blair's moral impulse governing his support for any Iraqi war also views another crisis as another area where the man who feels the heavy hand of history on his shoulder may do some good. Jack Straw and Jan Petersen, Foreign Ministers of Britain and Norway respectively, wrote an article for Al-Hayat, "Two Simultaneous Crises in the Middle East", wooing the Arabs and stating that the Palestinian/Israeli (although it is actually the Arab/Israeli) conflict is equal in importance to the Iraqi crisis.

There are also other encouraging signs in an overall situation where it often can be difficult to identify rays of hope. Opinion polls show a majority on both sides for a two-state solution involving, among other things, evacuation of Israeli settlements, an Israeli withdrawal, and an end to Palestinian terrorist attacks. The international community has come together to help the parties get out of the current impasse. We share a vision of two states living side by side in peace and security. We are eagerly awaiting the adoption by the Quartet of a ‘road map’ with clear time lines and benchmarks to assist Israel and the Palestinian Authority in reaching a comprehensive settlement. In a situation where the parties themselves often seem to lack the courage to make the necessary moves towards a peace settlement, it is of great importance that the international community acts to help the parties to take the perhaps painful but necessary steps.

Britain should not be involved in any steps to help either party. Given that the Palestinian Authority is a shell of its former authority and that Hamas, whose ideological goal is the destruction of Israel, is rapidly gaining in popularity in Gaza and the West Bank, how can any peace process move forward? Moreover, what about the other Arab states that continue to foster terrorist attacks on Israel and whose steps towards peace are tactics when they feel their interests are under threat?

Israel seems to be doing fairly well at containing the problem on its own and if the United States wishes to push them towards some peace process, then so be it. It is none of our business to sort out another intractable fight.


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