Surprise! A Glimmer of Hope in the Mideast

Through the dark clouds of despair, a ray of hope has emerged, and it has come from the most unexpected source.

I am not talking about American Senator Chuck Schumer’s assertion on MSNBC last night that there’s still a chance a public option will survive the shenanigans going on in the Finance Committee over the health care bill. I’ll believe that when I see it. As far as U.S. health care reform is concerned, I have lost faith in the process. It seems to me that too many politicians have sold out and too many members of the public have lost their minds.

No, surprisingly, the tiny spark of hope came from reading Arianna Huffington’s account of her recent interview with Israeli President Shimon Peres.

mideastYou may have seen the photo op in which President Obama got Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to shake hands at the United Nation’s General Assembly in New York on Tuesday. And you may have dismissed it, as I did, as political theater with nothing of substance behind it.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs certainly did his best to throw cold water on any hopes I might have had that the talks would lead to a breakthrough in the Mideast peace process. “We have no grand expectations out of one meeting,” he said.arianna huffington

Also, reaction from extremists in Israel and Palestine gave no indication of progress toward peace. Some Israeli politicians called the summit “a shameful farce” and accused Netanyahu of “humiliating Israel.”  And Hamas’ leaders accused Abbas of “stabbing Palestinians in the back.”

But – here comes that glimmer of hope – Ms. Huffington (photo at right)  quoted Peres (below, left) as saying:

“It was an important first step because, as leaders, the main problem that both Netanyahu and Abbas face are their own people asking, “Why are you giving away so much?”

You are going to be criticized. But you have to give things away. Indeed, you must have the courage to keep giving things away. But we need to understand that the leaders’ rhetoric is often for domestic consumption. So when Abbas makes statements that are difficult for Israelis to hear, I choose to judge him not by his rhetoric but by his actions.

The path to peace is never perfect. Too many critics demand perfection. But what we are trying to achieve is to allow people to stay alive so they can dream of perfection. Better an imperfect peace than a perfect war.

shimon peresMs. Huffington also quoted Peres as saying the Iraeli government plans no preemptive military action against Iran, which is developing a nuclear bomb with the expressed intent of wiping Israel off the map.

Imagine that – the voice of reason coming from an Israeli leader.

From what I had read, especially about the savagery in Gaza, I did not expect that. And, according to Ms. Huffington, Peres is no figurehead; he is the Cardinal Richelieu of Israeli politics, the power behind the throne.

It just could be that the extremist voices coming from the Mideast are not to be taken seriously, that there’s a lot of posturing going on, and somewhere in the background reasonable people are taking positive action toward ending the horrendous standoff that has caused so much bloodshed and misery… And, incidentally, that threatens the peace of the entire world.

For Ms. Huffington’s article, click: