ideast Democracy

Peace in the Middle East is looking less and less likely as both Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak continue to disagree about the key areas of concern, specifically the fate of Jerusalem. As the leaders’ ability to negotiate a deal is tightly restricted by the wills of their peoples, friendlier relations between the two heads of state is unlikely to make finding common ground any easier. Unless the Palestinian people can accept a Jerusalem not solely theirs, and the Israelis willingly give up sovereignty over land to create an independent Palestinian state, the two leaders will remain powerless to compose a lasting peace agreement.
To be sure, Barak and Arafat have increasingly been on good terms with one another. Most recently, a meeting at Barak’s residence in Kochav Yair last Monday proved “very cordial” and “warm and open” according to both camps. The deep disagreements hindering a compromise, however, were not discussed, and indeed have been largely avoided since the Camp David peace talks failed to resolve conflicts two months ago.
Four consecutive days of bloody violence in the West Bank this past weekend dismally demonstrated the near impossibility of a compromise between the two peoples. The Sept. 28 visit of an Israeli delegation to the Nobel Sanctuary–one of the most revered Muslim sites–initiated the violence. The presence of Israeli soldiers and the right-wing opposition leader, Ariel Sharon, incited the rock throwing and rioting that continues to severely disrupt life throughout the West Bank. Israeli forces responded to the protests with gunfire, killing nearly 30 Arabs and injuring hundreds more during the confrontations.
Both sides hold some responsibility for the bloodshed. Sharon should have shown more sensitivity in his language at the holy site, which holds undeniable importance to both Jews and Muslims, as it contains two sacred mosques–al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock–and rests on the Temple Mount, the most sacred Jewish site. At the same time, the Palestinians’ violent reaction was to no purpose. Some of their anger was even directed at Arafat for his dealings with Barak.
The situation seems hopeless as the violent encounters–which have spread into Arab towns inside Israel–further distance the two peoples and makes amiable relations between their leaders more complex and difficult.