The American Interest

Peace in the Holy Land, Elusive as Ever

A year ago, the prospects for peace in Israel-Palestine appeared more promising than at any other time after Bill Clinton’s failed Camp David initiative in 2000.  Arafat’s death in November 2004 had removed a major cause of Palestinian corruption and incoherence, as well as the justification for Israel’s refusal to accept direct talks.  Mahmoud Abbas’ victory in the Palestinian Authority (PA) election on January 9, 2005, on a platform of a nonviolent quest for peace, was widely seen as an important step toward bringing democratic reform to Palestinian society, ending terrorism, and facilitating negotiations.  A day later, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon formed a new, centrist coalition, which brought the Labor Party into government and supposedly reflected the growing sense in Jerusalem that the Jewish state could not sustain an open-ended status quo.

The international environment also seemed favorable, with President Bush and his European partners apparently keen to make a joint push for peace that would help them overcome the unpleasantness surrounding Iraq.  “The calm which will prevail in our lands starting from today is the beginning of a new era,” Mr. Abbas declared at a summit meeting with Sharon in Sharm-el-Sheikh in February 2005.  Mr. Sharon replied by saying that an opportunity existed “to disengage from the path of blood and start on a new path.”  As I noted...

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