March 11, 2005


People making nice

Suddenly there is good news in many places in the world as more and more people are making nice. Here are just a few examples:

• Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas continue their good relations (at least as this is being written). Sharon has said that he can work with Abbas, who has visited Sharon at his farm.

• Sharon was interviewed by Egypt’s most prominent newspaper. He stressed his desire for peace. He seems like the most unlikely advocate for peace between the Jews and Arabs considering his past, but perhaps, just because of his past, he is the most likely to succeed. He continues his plans to close Israeli settlements in Gaza and some on the West Bank.

• Condoleezza Rice had a very successful whirlwind tour of Europe and the Middle East during which she charmed everyone, even the French.

• President Bush followed up Rice’s trip with one of his own to Europe, during which everyone tried to be nice despite disagreements over various issues.

• In Lebanon, the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri has brought Christians and Muslims together as they all mourn his death. Hariri negotiated the 1989 Christian-Muslim power-sharing agreement that ended the civil war in Lebanon, but later resigned over the issue of Syrian troops in Lebanon.

• Former presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush traveled together to southeast Asia to visit tsunami victims. These two opponents in the 1992 presidential election have become friends, as shown by their attendance at the Super Bowl together, and it has been reported that President George W. Bush also likes Clinton. The president brought tears to Clinton’s eyes when he praised him highly during the unveiling of Clinton’s official portrait at the White House sometime back. Clinton also has made friends with Bob Dole, whom he beat in 1996.

• Senators Hillary Clinton and John McCain praised each other on NBC ’s “Meet the Press” on Feb. 20. They were in Iraq together and they agreed that U.S. troops must stay there until the job is done and there cannot be a timeline for their leaving. Thus, Clinton distanced herself from Sen. Ted Kennedy. When Tim Russert asked McCain if Hillary Clinton would make a good president, he replied that she would, but he ­wouldn’t support her since he was a Republican. Asked if McCain would make a good president, she also replied that he would. Then both accused Russert of getting them in trouble. There’s the distinct possibility that the two could be their respective party’s candidate for the presidency in 2008.

In the Middle East, it’s possible that things could blow up again at any time, but there does seem to be a great desire for peace there. One sign of that was the fact that the Palestinians expressed anger after a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv threatened to derail a truce and Abbas pledged to track down and punish those responsible.

It’s impossible to overemphasize the difficulty Abbas is going to have in trying to control Islamic Jihad, whose leaders are in Syria, or the Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah, backed by Syria and Iran. We hope that Israel will recognize this difficulty and remain patient. If Israel calls off peace efforts whenever there’s an incident, the militants win. That’s what they want.

Other good news: Nearly half of the 24 ministers who have joined Abbas’s new Palestinian cabinet hold doctorates, many of them earned at U.S. universities. Young and professional, they are a sharp contrast to Yasser Arafat’s cronies in the former cabinet. An economist with a Ph.D. now heads the Finance Ministry, a physician is the new health minister and a statistician is the new labor minister. Others have similar expertise. It shows Abbas’s determination to reform the Palestinian government.

There’s even good news in Egypt, where President Hosni Mubarak has asked the Egyptian Parliament to amend the constitution to allow democratic multiparty elections later this year. Democracy appears to be spreading in the Middle East after the successful elections in Iraq.

Let’s pray that this good news will continue. It’s pleasant to have so many people making nice to each other.

— John F. Fink  

(Fink is the editor emeritus of The Criterion)


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