In an editorial in the Lebanon Daily Star, the editor expressed hope Tony Blair might be successful in his new mission for Middle Eastern peace. The editorial emphasized: (a) he must understand that Israel-Palestinian peace is central to peace in the region; (b) he must build on the Arab Peace Initiative in order to move forward; (c) he must get Bush to finally recognize why Israel-Palestinian peace is linked to peace in Iraq and elsewhere; (d) and he must prevent neo-conservatives from dis-railing peace efforts.
I fear Bush is too embedded with neo-conservatives who insist Israel can only achieve peace through the barrel of a gun because you cannot trust Arabs. This may well be the last chance for years to attain peace, and it requires Israel to extend trust to moderate Palestinians. Yes, most Palestinians want peace. Israel must release hundreds of prisoners because the longer they languish in prison the more they absorb radical fundamentalist attitudes.
Neo-conservatives examining my prior words would claim I am placing on Israel the task of compromising while not insisting on compromise from Arabs. The Arab Peace Initiative is an opening for negotiation. It can basically be accepted with the proviso the refugee problem requires further study. One possibility is, as Israel settlers evacuate the West Bank, their homes and facilities could be assigned to Palestinian refugees. It would be a start in resolving the problem, not a final solution.
The real questions are can Blair be even-handed, and can he persuade Bush to cease listening to American neo-conservatives who believe Israel can do no wrong. Let me emphasize that Israel has been subjected to terrorism and brutality, but it has also behaved in a brutal fashion.