Thursday, May 15, 2003

The Middle East "Road Map" already appears to be in serious trouble. According to Haaretz, Arafat's Naqba Day address honored the 55-year struggle against Israel, and included the right of return of refugees as essential to the Palestinian cause. This will go perfectly with Palestinian public opinion, but also undercut Abu Mazen, who is left with the tough task of negotiating away the right of return. Abu Mazen's hope for legitimacy depended on getting results, and instead we see more Israeli incursions leading to dead Palestinians. Today a 12-year-old boy bled to death, apparently because the IDF prevented doctors from arriving to treat him. Furthermore, Arafat is apparently still a main source of authority with the PA. President Khatami's recent visit to Lebanon praised Hizbullah's success in ending the Israeli occupation there through armed resistance. In this Jerusalem Times Perspectives piece, an imprisoned Fatah leader passionately explains the need he sees to continue the Intifada.

Perhaps worst of all, the Sharon government is considering ways to forcibly open Temple Mount to worship by non-Muslims. Ideally, of course, a spot sacred to three religions should be open to all three. Since Sharon's controversial visit there in October 2000 basically sparked the current Intifada, however, the Muslim authorities have allowed others to visit only. If this can be done through agreement, all fine and dandy, but these articles are giving me nasty visions of IDF troops imposing something in the Haram ash-Sharif. Things would quickly spiral downward from there.

Muhammad Dahlan has yet to be heard from. Long considered "the future" among the Palestinian leadership, the fight between Arafat and Abu Mazen was largely over him and his agenda. If there is hope for the peace process in the short term, the future must begin now.


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