Mohammad Salah
Dar Al Hayat (Opinion)
June 23, 2008 - 3:06pm

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will be in Sharm el-Sheikh on Tuesday to meet Egyptian President Husni Mubarak. There is nothing new in this and what matters is the outcome of the meeting; a new agreement for a calm between the Palestinians and Israel. This would not be the first calm between the two and it will not be the last. The tension at the border crossings has significantly calmed down and the ability of the Palestinians to cross has significantly improved with the easing of the siege.

All this is real but there are no guarantees that it will persist. The Egyptians who sponsored the agreement may hope for its implementation and continuity to set the ground for a peace that leads to the establishment of a Palestinian state. The Palestinians may hope to rebuild their institutions during the calm, to reorganize their affairs and to reconcile with one another away from the noise of Israeli bombs and missiles.

The Americans may support the agreement and seek its continuity, at least until the presidential elections to allow President Bush to leave the White House in peace for Obama or McCain and without the images of massacres in Gaza stealing the headlines from the inauguration from whichever winning candidate. Olmert may wish for the calm to prevail in the Strip and at the demarcation lines with the Palestinians in the new few weeks until he brings his domestic dilemmas to an end.

Reality, however, implies that the agreement will not stand and that the calm will not last for long as the noise returns as long as each side maintains an agenda that contradicts that of the others. Previous experience, moreover, has shown that no calm can last between the Israelis and Palestinians as long as the Palestinian issue remained pending without radical solutions. It will always be possible for an individualistic act committed by a Palestinian activist to return matters to square one and at the same time Israeli foolishness has become part of the nature of every Israeli to the point that prevents any pretentious desire for peace that may coat Olmert's stances or those of any other Israeli official.

The Egyptians have worked diligently to accomplish the calm and Cairo engaged in tedious efforts to bring the positions of the two sides closer to create an appropriate atmosphere for declaring the agreement but other unsettled issues remained as time-bombs that threaten to bring down the calm at any moment, especially the issue of Palestinian captives and the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit held captive by Hamas. It is not unlikely for either side to take provocative steps toward the other if it felt that the other is being stubborn or imposing "impossible" conditions over the issue of the captives, hence leading the calm to the same fate suffered by previous attempts.

In his meeting with Olmert, President Mubarak may attempt to reinforce the calm and receive guarantees that prevent Israeli from violating the calm or from pushing the Palestinians to breach it. Evidently, however, Olmert's agenda contains a primary provision that has to do with his attempt to reinforce his position as the prime minister of Israel and as long as the calm serves this purpose, he will support the calm. Naturally, he will act against it if he came under pressures that threaten his unstable seat as a result of factors other than killing, besieging and starving the Palestinians.

In as much as optimism may prevail over the calm, it is certain that the Bush administration has failed dramatically in the Palestinian issue as it has failed with other issues. This means that the Palestinian cause will remain captive to the negotiations for calming down and the closing and opening of border crossings until a new administration arrives in the White House. Only then will new promises be made and a new date for the establishment of the Palestinian state will be set to start a new series of attempts at another calm…or perhaps more.


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