Wednesday, April 13, 2005
Middle East Progress
Well, well! Can you guess who said this?
[He] pointedly added: "If Kurdish Jews want to return to their villages and lands which they left voluntarily tens of years ago, they are free to do so. There will be no double standards before the law in Kurdistan."Okay, that was a giveaway. The speaker was Jalal Talabani, the interim President of Iraq. (Hat tip: neo-neocon, via Meryl. High time to add a new link to the bloglist.)
As I said before, the acid test for Arab democracies will be when they choose to accept Israel. (They have everything to gain, and nothing but their hatred to lose, by becoming friends with their Jewish neighbor. Israel can help them in innumerable ways... and that help is available for the asking.)
We ain't there yet... and we've seen false alarms before. But let's remain hopeful!
UPDATE: This seems a little hopeful too:
That's a photo of some of the dignitaries at the funeral of Pope John Paul II. The gray-haired man on the left is Israeli President Moshe Katsav; the black-haired man looking to his left is Syrian President Bashar Assad.
From Qatar's Gulf Times:
Israeli President Moshe Katsav said he shook hands with the leaders of Syria and Iran at Pope John Paul’s funeral yesterday, when the Pontiff in death brought together Middle East foes as no man alive ever had.
Katsav’s encounters with President Bashar Assad of Syria, formally at war with the Jewish state, and Iranian President Mohamed Khatami occurred when hundreds of international dignitaries crowded together at the Vatican funeral.
The encounters, are believed to be the first time an Israeli president had shaken hands with Syrian and Iranian leaders. It was unknown whether the handshakes were captured on film.
“I told him ‘Good morning’ and he shook my hand,” Katsav, who holds a largely ceremonial post as head of state, told Israel’s Channel 2 TV on his encounter with Assad. The Israeli and Syrian delegations had been seated next to each other.
Iranian-born Katsav said he spoke in his native Farsi to Khatami about Yazd, their common city of birth.
“The president of Iran extended his hand to me, I shook it and told him in Farsi, ‘May peace be upon you’,” said Katsav...
The official Syrian news agency Sana later said Katzav and Assad had shaken hands but that it had “no political significance and does not alter the known Syrian position” toward the Jewish state.
Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom later told CNN that the handshakes gave Israel a “glimmer of hope that something can change in the Middle East”, but that peace between Israel and the two countries was still far off.
“There is still a long way to go before we can reach a compromise. But sometimes things can start with one gesture,” Shalom said.