Sunday, November 14, 2004
Life after Arafat
It's a few days since Yasser Arafat died. Will now Middle East be different? I doubt. Because for Israel, Arafat was more of an excuse than a real hurdle. It cuts the other way too. For Palestinians, Sharon was more of an excuse. To Sharon's credit we must say this radical, dared to announce pullout from West Bank and Gaza. But Palestinians want the wall removed. When neither refuse to budge, how can there be a foward movement. There is this golden rule in diplomacy: be ready to take one step back, so you can take two steps forward.
Unless the extremists retreat and let the moderates take control, nothing will change. Extremism is like a tiger. Once you mount, you can't get off; and even if you manage dismount alive, no one will believe you. This is as much true of Middle East as Kashmir, Ireland or the Basque region.