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Not the Right Time for Peace

Not the Right Time for PeaceAccording to one Fletcher School graduate student, despite the best intentions of all parties involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the region is too unstable for peace to hold.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [06.04.07] The international community's desire to achieve peace in the Middle East remains strong, and there is pressure on the United States to facilitate this as soon as possible. But one doctoral candidate at The Fletcher School says that two factors stand in the way of peace in the region: "government stability and government ability."

"Until those two very difficult issues are overcome, peace in the Mideast will be nothing more than a pipe dream," Joshua Gleis wrote in an op-ed for the Providence Journal.

In the article, Gleis outlines several reasons why peace is not currently attainable in the Middle East, despite a recent Arab League-sponsored offer of normalizing ties with Israel if the nation withdraws to 1967 borders and authorizes a "right of return" for Palestinian refugees.

First, he explained in the op-ed, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his coalition government, already suffering from low approval ratings, were further weakened by a report assessing last summer's conflict with Hezbollah forces.

"However, assuming for a moment that Israel did have a leader with the political support to establish a peace agreement, whom would he or she find as a partner on the other side?" Gleis asked.

According to Gleis, the Palestinian coalition government led by Hamas—which many nations consider a terrorist organization—and Fatah, which is more moderate but less influential, is not a viable partner for peace.

"Thus, unless Israel ceases to exist or Hamas suddenly moderates its stance (a task not even the influential Saudis and Egyptians have been able to accomplish), a Palestinian-Israeli peace agreement in the near future is impossible," Gleis wrote in the Journal.

In the op-ed, Gleis suggested that the instability of neighboring countries is also a factor.

"While the Syrian government at times indicates its willingness to enter into peace talks with the Israelis, its actions indicate the opposite," wrote Gleis, who adds that Syria is apt to renew the call for peace talks "whenever it serves its purposes." Gleis also notes Syria's close relationship with Iran and role in allowing weapons and soldiers to enter Iraq and southern Lebanon.

As for Lebanon, Gleis cites the ongoing struggle for leadership between the U.S.-backed moderate government and the Hezbollah forces supported by Syria and Iran.

"Lebanon has rarely been a bastion of stability, but now is certainly not a time when it is likely the Lebanese will be able to arrive at a peace agreement with Israel, let alone with themselves," Gleis wrote in the Journal.

With all of these factors in play, peace in the Middle East is not possible in the near future, says the Fletcher student.

"The region is simply not ripe for peace, and such ripeness is essential for any effective agreement to take hold," Gleis wrote.

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