Thursday, July 27, 2006

Getting Back on Track

The situations (not one but many exist; no monolithic approach will do) in the Middle East are dreadful. The now-two-week-old Israeli destruction of Lebanon's infrastructure is a disproportionate response to defend itself. This week Pope Benedict "reaffirmed the 'right of the Lebanese to the integrity and sovereignty of their country, the right of Israelis to live in peace in their state, and the right of Palestinians to a free and sovereign homeland'" (, 23 July 2006).

Haifa, an Israeli city, home to Jews and Arabs, some Muslim, some Christian demonstrates no black and white exists; or better, that a black-and-white approach is not helpful. In Haifa many Jews and Arabs (a small minority) coexist peacefully. With a quarter million population "Haifa is renowned for the harmonious relations between its Jewish and Arab citizens." And this in the face of persisting suspicion and distrust!

Now some Muslim Arabs in Haifa have voiced anger at the militant members of Hezbollah. They consider Hezbollah to be destroying their lives as well as Israeli lives. One young Arab, a worker at the port of Haifa, now because of the shelling, is without a job (Source: BBC; How many more times can his story be multiplied?

In the face of this disaster (which has surely been coming for a good while) one fact close to home wrenches my heart. My country, the United States, has a had a track record of negotiating and of setting the stage so that Israeli and Arab parties could negotiate. President Jimmy Carter did what no one else could do at Camp David. (See Jimmy Carter's journal of those days,The Blood of Abraham: Insights into the Middle East, October 1993.) President Bill Clinton furthered President Carter's efforts and the efforts of all who had continued that work between the Carter and Clinton Administrations.

The two most recent Administrations, however, refused to continue to maintain that track record. Others know better how thankless and fruitless it appears and feels. Yet following, maintaining and building upon this track record may, as others demonstrated, promotes peace. It may be the most promising contribution the United States can make for the entire world as well as to promote the dignity, sovereignty and freedom of people who live with out them on most days.

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