Sunday, May 22, 2005

The Middle East in the United States

Aljazeera.Net - Sharon to meet US Jews on Gaza plan

As one opens The New York Times this morning one encounters no less than two full-page ads in which different Jewish organisations is welcoming Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as he arrives here.

Sharon himself will not visit the White House - he's here to get support from the Jewish organisations for his plans to disengage from Gaza - but his advisors will be busy having talks.

The reason is that on Thursday it is Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas that will be the guest of President Bush. It will be a most important meeting.

There is a clear need to give a stronger impetus to the work towards peace in the region.

Both Ariel Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas have been forced to devote a large part of their energies the last months towards controlling the respective fundamentalist forces in their societies. It's not been easy, but it's moving in the right direction.

In Palestine, everything is now focused on the July 17 parliamentary election.

Judging by some of the local elections held, Hamas is likely to do rather well in these. This is also resulting from a perception that, once again, Mahmoud Abbas might be let down by Washington and Tel Aviv in his search for peace.

This makes the Thurday meeting in the White House extremely important. It is important that President Bush, in the same way as he went far in demonstrating his support for Prime Minister Sharons disengagement plan, is ready to announce concrete policy steps to support the Mahmoud Abbas policy of reconciliation, reform and peace.

So, this week the politics of peace in the Middle East will be played out here in New York and Washington. Sharon and Abbas will be dancing around in different circles.

Europe is slightly at the sidelines. But there is a much higher degree of consensus between Washington and Brussels on policy than was the case a year or so ago.

Let's hope that things can be moved forward.