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Opinion: Meeting for Middle East Peace Won't Bring Sides Closer

Ahead of the meeting of the "Middle East Quartet" in New York City on Tuesday, Peter Philipp looks at the chances of Middle East peace. They don't look good.

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President George W. Bush's unflappable support for Ariel Sharon has damaged America's reputation as a peacemaker.

The "road map" to peace in the Middle East is still the necessary guideline to ending the conflict in the region.

The Americans, Europeans, Russians and representatives of the United Nations use the road map to measure what is happening in the Middle East. And only that which is at the very least superficially consistent with the ideas of the "Middle East Quartet" has a chance at broad international support.

But it doesn't have a chance at success. That has become ever clearer recent weeks. During Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's recent trip to the U.S., he didn't just get America's blessings on his plan to pull out of the Gaza Strip, he got Bush's guarantee that Israel "naturally" wouldn't have to leave all the areas they occupied after the 1967 war. That was even described as "consistent with the road map" even though the document clearly calls for Israeli-Palestinian agreements and not one-sided measures, or outside influences.

Then, Sharon brought his Gaza plan to his own party and suffered defeat: The party rejected it and now Sharon wants to modify it. The Palestinians continue to reject anything related to the Gaza Plan instead of taking what they can get and accepting an initial Israeli pullout.

Let the Israelis leave Gaza

United Nations General Secretary Kofi Annan sees at the very least something positive in the dilemma: The withdrawal plan can be seen as an important first step, he said ahead of a meeting of the quartet in New York. The question is now to what extent everything can be combined. But does it have to be? Sharon and most Israelis want to be rid of Gaza. Why should they be hindered in this desire?

The quartet won't be able to propose a solution or a way out. The loose alliance of the United States, the European Union, Russia and the U.N., which should demonstrate worldwide consensus on the Middle East problem, does this only in a limited manner. A common line is missing, as is a common conviction to reaching and pushing through a unified position.

Of course, peace cannot be pushed onto the Middle East from the outside -- not from the U.S., not from the United Nations and also not from the quartet. But were it really important to the international community, they could demonstrate a bit more solidarity and engagement. Instead, they continue to let the incidents in the region take them by surprise and bring them off track.

The U.S. has checked out as a negotiator

Only months before the presidential election in the U.S., it is becoming clear that the most important partner in the quartet cannot be relied upon as a neutral mediator or peace negotiator in the near future, perhaps even less than they have already been under the current president.

The road map itself is a not a revolutionary or visionary concept for Middle East peace. It is only the combination of some common Middle Eastern platitudes: that peace must be based on the return of the occupied territories, an end to the violence and an agreement on both sides.

That's all well and good, but how do you get to that point? The quartet will most likely not find an answer in New York.

  • Date 04.05.2004
  • Author Peter Philipp (dre)
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  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/4zSh
  • Date 04.05.2004
  • Author Peter Philipp (dre)
  • Print Print this page
  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/4zSh