02/03/2005, 00.00
MIDDLE EAST – USA

Peace, not "conflict management", the goal for Middle East

David-Maria A. Jaeger*
Comment of father David-Maria A. Jaeger, expert observer of the situation in the Holy Land on president Bush State of the Union Address.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - The President's speech expresses, in effect, a renewed and strengthened commitment to help bring about peace between the two Nations in the Holy Land, ensuring that they become two free, democratic States living side by side in peace.

The situation on the ground appears to be particularly favourable to such a renewed effort. Against the background of Israel's decision to withdraw its army and settlers from the Gaza Strip, and the commitment of the newly elected Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, Abu Mazen, to maintain control over all the armed organisations in the Palestinian Territories, a summit meeting is now scheduled for next Tuesday, in Sharm-el-Sheikh, bringing together King Abdallah II of Jordan, President Mubarak of Egypt, the Palestinian President Abbas, and Israel's Prime Minister Sharon, to work on ways to stabilise the situation further.

A couple of days earlier, the  new U.S. Secretary of State, Dr. Condoleeza Rice, is scheduled to meet the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships, to convey to them directly the President' message. Clearly the most urgent task should now be to reconvene actual negotiations on a definitive peace treaty between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Otherwise all that the current activity will achieve will simply be a precarious return to the situation before 28 September 2000, an inherently unstable situation that had already resulted in the destructive violence of the last four years.

Peace, not simply "conflict management" must be the goal. Peace is what the two peoples wish for, hope for, and have the right to. Peace is what continued strong leadership from Washington is fully capable of achieving. The first President Bush, the current President's father, laid the foundations, and created the legal and political framework for achieving such peace, in convening the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference. The second President Bush now has an historic opportunity to complete the task.

*Franciscan based in Jerusalem

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