The Middle East Times (Editorial)
December 8, 2008 - 1:00am

Throughout history man has tried to predict the future, turning alternatively from science to witchcraft and everything in between. That being said, predicting the future, in some instances, may be easier than imagined. Simply look at the past.

Indeed history offers us a goldmine of information, if only we take the time to dig through it, and then remember the lessons it offers.

This formula may be applied to Middle East politics. By studying past events we discover a clear pattern of repetition. Politics in the Middle East, (as in many other areas) is cyclical. And every so often a window of opportunity opens, allowing for a breakthrough in the otherwise stagnant peace process.

The danger lies in missing that window as typically the result is regression into more violence. Looking back throughout the region's recent history, one can find many examples of such missed opportunities.

When Yasser Arafat addressed the United Nations General Assembly on Nov. 13, 1974, in his capacity as chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, he told the assembly that he had come "bearing an olive branch and a freedom-fighter's gun." Arafat told the United Nations not to let the olive branch fall from his hand. "War flares up in Palestine, and yet it is in Palestine that peace will be born," he added.

Perhaps the alignment of forces leading to a just and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians was not quite possible at that time, but imagine how different events in the Middle East would have been had the international community acted on Arafat's challenge.

Today, we are at the threshold of such a historic moment where all the forces are aligned in a manner that would permit a breakthrough in the deadlocked process.

"We have a window of opportunity - a short amount of time before we enter an extremely dangerous situation - in which to take a historic step in our relations with the Palestinians and a historic step in our relations with the Syrians," Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot earlier this year.

"In both instances, the decision we have to make is the decision we've spent 40 years refusing to look at with our eyes open. We must make these decisions," said Olmert.

"We must reach an agreement with the Palestinians, meaning a withdrawal from nearly all, if not all, of the [occupied] territories," said Olmert, adding that without this, "there would be no peace."

As history has shown us, failure to advance the peace process will result in a dangerous relapse, creating greater militancy. The result will catapult the Middle East into an even more dangerous cycle of violence, because once again, as history clearly demonstrates, every new cycle of violence is greater than the previous one.

The principal actors are all in agreement that peace is the only solution, yet remain unable to move forward to the next step on their own. It is of paramount importance that the United States reclaims its role as principal peacemaker in the Middle East as soon as the Barack Obama administration takes over in the United States, if not even sooner.

And if you are curious as to what the future may hold in the event that another opportunity will be missed, take a look at a history book. The answer is there.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017