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Sludge Report #35 – Let Every Voice Sing Out

IN THIS EDITION: The Middle East Peace Settlement Needs Our Support – Keeping Hope Alive

NOTE: Authors of this report will be anonymous and wide ranging. Indeed you are invited to contribute: The format is as a reporters notebook. It will be published as and when material is available. C.D. Sludge can be contacted at sludge@scoop.co.nz. The Sludge Report is available as a free email service..Click HERE - http://www.scoop.co.nz/cgi-bin/newsagent/new_user.cgi?form=home to subscribe...

The Middle East Peace Settlement Needs Your Support - Keeping Hope Alive

It is far from surprising that everyone is feeling decidedly cynical about the outcome of the peace summit in the Middle East this morning.

PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat has achieved far less than he, and his people, have been calling for. Ditto Israeli PM Ehud Barak, whose belated concessions at the peace summit will not obviously make him any more popular among Israeli voters.

However, the fact that both men, inspite of the legion of obstacles in their path, have nevertheless made these small steps towards peace is something we can be thankful for. What matters now of course however is not what they say in public – but what happens on the ground in the Holy Land.

Significantly it is worth acknowledging that we now have something which we did not have 24 hours ago – something to attach our hopes to.

In addition we can take some comfort in the fact that both Arafat and Barak have, in acceding to this agreement, acted in a way that is not simply playing to their own domestic constituencies. They have shown what might best be described as tentative courage.

US President Bill Clinton is probably due some credit too.

The decision of the Commander-in-Chief not to follow the usual US policy of bombing someone surgically in response to the attack on the USS Cole in Aden has been a great help to the peace process thus far. And may this remain so.

Secondly to have the strength to announce a peace agreement which could so easily explode in his face and cause considerable harm to the re-election chances of his Vice President, shows a strength of character that was sadly absent from recent US foreign policy decisions in Colombia.

What it is important to appreciate now is that Arafat and Barak, and Clinton for that matter, now need positive reinforcement for the actions they have taken at their Middle East Summit to bear the fruits of a lasting peace.

A very faint flame of peace has been ignited on the shores of the Red Sea which could very easily be extinguished as a result of cynicism, indifference and ongoing violence in coming days.

But as in East Timor – where every sober commentator felt at the time that the likelihood of a positive outcome to the crisis was all but gone - the surprising can, and often does happen.

And so Sludge would like to encourage everybody receiving this column today to think how they too can help keep the hope alive.


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