From Opportunity to Reality in the Middle East

It has been a long time since the words “opportunity” and “Middle East” appeared in the same sentence. But now they are. Even better, this optimism may have some basis in reality.

One important reason for this change in attitude is, of course, Yasir Arafat’s disappearance from the scene. Like the Thane of Cawdor in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, “Nothing in his life became him like the leaving it.”

Arafat never grew beyond the man who appeared at the United Nations decades ago with both an olive branch and a gun. His unwillingness to jettison terror and choose diplomacy proved his undoing, as he lost legitimacy in the eyes of both Israel and the United States. The result was the failure to create a Palestinian state.

But it is not simply Arafat’s passing that provides cause for optimism. We now have a Palestinian leadership legitimized by elections, one that appears to be opposed to using terrorism as a tool to achieve political aims. Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) has a good record of questioning the wisdom of the intifada that has taken too many lives and caused only misery and destruction on all sides of this enduring conflict.