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Tuesday, 30 April, 2002, 11:14 GMT 12:14 UK
Time for a multi-national force in the Middle East?
The UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has called for a multi-national force to be deployed in the Middle East.
According to the Secretary General, this force could be made up of troops from "a coalition of willing nations" and authorised with a "robust" UN mandate.
Analysts say that although the idea of sending a multi-national force to the Palestinian territories is not new, it has never before been put forward as boldly.
Speaking at a closed meeting of the UN Security Council, Kofi Annan expressed doubts that the Israelis and Palestinians will be able to find a way out of the current conflict by themselves.
Do you think a multi-national force might help achieve peace in the Middle East? What would you like to see happen next in the region?
This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Israel cannot continue to scream "anti-semitism" every time the rational world condemns it's current and many past actions of state terrorism. The world has stood back for 54 years and ignored the terrible plight of the Palestinian people living under Israeli occupation for fear of being called "anti-semitic". Now the rational world seems to have started to see the light and yes, we can condemn Israel without being accused of being anti-Jewish. A UN peacekeeping force is definitely needed and the Palestinians have been asking for this for years, however this must be without a US contingent. The US are not impartial (they are Israel's biggest supporter and financier). Leave it to more level-headed, unbiased peacekeepers.
Tino, US / Belgium
UN peace keepers have not worked in Bosnia and Lebanon. Why? Because there was no peace to be kept. Given the "effectiveness" of the UN Peace keepers in Lebanon, Israel would be crazy to agree. Right now, the Lebanese UN effort allows Hezbollah to attack Israel, with almost total immunity. With this border as a precedent, UN troops in Ramallah and Gaza would provide a shelter for PLO suicide bomber, but constrain Israel's right of self defence.
It is a bad idea.
While Europeans are looking for something to blame on Israel to maintain their historic prejudice towards Jews, no massacres or unreasonable actions can be proven in this latest step by Jews to protect themselves. To ask Jews to rely on a third party to protect them would be inappropriate based on the history of incompetence and prejudice of both the UN and the European military. If people are so concerned about saving lives it would behove them to work to change the teaching of hatred in Palestinian schools and to stop the incitement that has filled PA and Muslim media for the last 30 years
Cliff, Huntington, USA
The only way that the truth can emerge, any peace treaty be policed and the civilians be actively protected is by deploying an International Force strong enough to protect any peace initiative. If Israel has nothing to hide, they should not object to the proposal. The US is doing it elsewhere, so it should not object either.
Should the UN be in the Middle East? The question is rhetorical. Of course they should. The only country that do not want it is Israel, and we know why. I have some sympathy for Israel's position but events over many years have made the world at large begin to say "Whatever happens to Israel is their own fault" They continually, with support from the USA, defy world opinion and have created a state where only those of Jewish decent can be welcomed. What other country in the world can do this?
Given that the base of the whole conflict is Israel's continual, and expanding, occupation of Palestinian land, where would this force be based? In Israel?
No wonder the Israelis are in favour of the idea.
Mehdi Rafi, NY, USA
I am totally in support of a UN peacekeeping force in the Middle East. I am sad to say, I am totally appalled with the US reaction to the slaughter of people in Jenin and other areas of the West Bank. The reaction is totally alarming and a sad day for the US in the eyes of the world. Instead of demonstrating statesmanship and compassion, we are led only by lobbies - and who is going to vote for Bush? It is unconscionable for a so-called world leader to act in this manner. We Americans should be ashamed.
As one who got a few chances to see, both here and in Bosnia, how it looks with peacekeeping forces, despite of obvious problem in Israel, my strong advice would be no. No to useless, self-contained UN troops, that funny medley of disability and ignorance, led as usual by USA.....please no. Find any other model but UN....thanks
Rachel, Cambridge, UK
I think that the multinational force would make things worse, really. If they were to stop Israel from making strikes, the Palestinian suicide bombers would be given a multinational mandate to continue their massacre or genocide. On the other hand, if the multinational force were to halt Palestinians as much as the Israeli, they would most certainly be targets of the Palestinians, too. The most effective way to calm things down would be an embargo that would aim to the seizure of all weapons directed to the Palestinian territory. Israel will calm down with time if left to go about without bombings.
A peace keeping force is a must to protect the human rights of the Palestinian people. I would like to see the US (the biggest obstacle in the way of peace in the Middle East) out of the peace process. I guarantee a peace settlement will be reached in a period of five years maximum if the US does not meddle in the conflict. I put my neck on this, the world can execute me if this does not happen in five years.
A peace force will not necessarily resolve the problem, yet it is the only hope. As in the Balkans, warring communities must be kept apart until a permanent peace is achieved, even if the process takes a long time. The horror of suicide bombings and the recent atrocities committed by the military in the Jenin camp must not be repeated. NATO and the EU should take strong action. All military aid to Israel and Egypt should be halted and the resources diverted to rebuilding and expanding the infrastructure of Palestine following instant recognition of that state by the big powers. Ordinary Palestinians and Israelis must enjoy full security and only an outside force can ensure this on a just and equal basis. In time the barriers must come down again and a firm peace settlement (in which each side will have to make hard concessions) reached following negotiations started without prior conditions. Long lasting peace will only come after an atmosphere of mutual respect is established. We are along way from that target.
Adul Ganni, UK
What the Middle East needs is an unequivocal demand from the free world on all states to denounce terrorism as a means to gaining political ends, and a boycott on all organisations and governments that support and encourage terrorism. The UN cannot and must not be blinded by Arafat. Israel has to protect her citizens. Israel and Israelis only want to live in peace, but they have to feel safe.
We have seen UN-sanctioned action in both Africa and Europe (Somalia and former Yugoslavia spring to mind) - and these efforts have always been disasters. What is there to suggest that a UN force will act in any way differently to the Dutch units in Bosnia? It looks more like a proposal to add more diverse targets into a war zone.
The Palestinians continue to live in a world of bizarre fantasies; the "international force" is the latest.
They think someone will somehow rescue them from the consequences of defeat.
The Palestinians chose to start a war with a more powerful opponent.
In war, the powerful conquer and dictate terms, while the weak are vanquished and submit.
To seek for the Israeli Jews what they don't want, is to affect their appetite for their togetherness (understood in every possible way). A multi-national force in Israel shall prove counter-productive as far as Israeli Jews cooperating is in need. They aren't the nukes themselves assuring they'll never be used. Israeli Jews less cooperative, isn't indeed what the world should have a pronounced wish for. The desperate may act desperate. And as simplifiers the Israeli Jews may prove competitive.
This contribution to 'Talking Point' is more realistic than proposing a multi-national force to be in Israel.
Jerome Cheung, Jakarta, Indonesia
This request has been on the table for years lets not forget it was asked by many countries and the UN. The US has always used its power to stop this taking place because Israel does not approve? Who approves giving back something he took by force and likes to keep? It is time the US wakes up before it also become ruthless in its international behaviour and lose all morality. The American administration lately showed the world the true shape of blackmail? They themselves are not able to talk freely as they are being blackmailed by the strong Israeli lobby in the US. America has lost its credibility and is in the process of loosing its morality. All Americans will be ashamed of the reactions taken by the American administrations regarding the Sharon behaviour.
Please reflect upon the fact that it was the US Government that last year vetoed a proposed UN force that would have operated in a peacekeeping capacity between the Israeli and Palestinian territories of that region.
There are several important facts that writers supporting the Palestinian 'cause' seem unaware of. First, the 'Saudi plan' includes the Right of Return. Please examine what that means before you hail all the wonderful 'peace initiatives' from the Arab world. Secondly, the Palestinians have, in fact, been offered an independent state. The second intifada was unleashed directly following Arafat's refusal of this offer. Because Palestinian supporters are simply unable to reconcile their position with this fact, they prefer to simply ignore it or pretend that it has no significance. Third, strong military operations to capture terrorists and destroy terrorist infrastructure (not simply 'retaliations') like we have seen in the last month have been provably successful in lowering the daily toll of suicide bombings in Israel.
Jim, San Francisco, USA
I think the idea of a multinational force is useless. It would need to be approved by Israel and they are not in any hurry to lose their oppression of the Palestinians. The only answer to the conflict is for America to cut off our monetary support of Israel, but our politicians seem more directed by Sharon's interests than our own interests. Embarrassing!
A peace keeping mission should have been there right through, at the place where the international community has violated human rights. Suicide bombings have been preceded by Palestinians losing individual homes and lands without their agreement, and then the illegal occupation of their lands by Israel.
Tony Sarrow, Oswestry UK
To Etai, Israel. If peace is really the goal of the Israelis; why then did Mr. Sharon visit the Temple Mountain while he knew damned well such would raise hell all over again? Why the offensive attitude against the Palestinians who have no financial or political back up from the US, no nukes and no sophisticated army like you do? Israel has the power to take the first daring and difficult steps to peace because it's overcome the holocaust and became the most developed and strongest nation in the Middle-East. Israel has to proof the world it's able to walk among the nations without the helping hand of big brother USA. The millennia old dispute between the offspring of Isaac and Ishmael has to stop right now and forever.
It should be called a UN humanity preservation mission - one that protects Palestinians from daily Israeli brutality and humiliation.
Of course we should send a peacekeeping force. If this had been done before, many tragedies caused by suicide bombers and the Israeli massacre in Jenin could have been avoided. Shame on the US for blocking this and more shame on the EU for allowing the US to get away with it. This is a major disaster caused by occupation. Send the force now.
The majority of militant Palestinians want an end to the Israeli state, and a majority of militant Israelis would like to either remove the Palestinians from the West Bank or else build a "Great Wall" or another physical barrier. The militants are in effective control on both sides. Each side wants peace only on their own terms. Peacekeepers are premature at this stage. They will be unable to stop either the suicide bombers or the inevitable retaliations.
Yes we need a UN force now. And for those who are pointing their finger at the Palestinians, they should realise that this whole scenario has been created by the United States and the West because if they supplied the Palestinians the same weapons which they have donated freely to the Israelis, then those who have sacrificed their lives would have been able to use F-16s and US made helicopter gunships and air conditioned tanks to retaliate. The issue here is that you cannot equate the violence which is being used by oppressors and occupiers to the violence that is being used by those defending their homes, their children and their lives.
Even though a peace keeping force might be futile, it may alleviate some of the terrible sufferings experienced by civilians on both sides, which is desperately needed on the Palestinian side. It will be truly unthinkable if the whole world just sits on the sidelines and watches, which has been exactly the case so far.
Quentin Holt, Invercargill New Zealand
Jenin's catastrophe would not have happened had there been a peacekeeping force. It is mandatory now.
This is the best choice available to the international community to try to help establishing peace. let us not waste it.
I would like people to remember that according to various resolutions adopted by the United Nations Council Israel should have abandoned any occupied territory many years ago. The international community's failure to enforce those resolutions is the ONLY cause of the problems we are facing today. I regret deeply every death in this conflict, Palestinian or Israeli. God bless you.
RW, Ashland, U.S.A.
No peacekeeping will stop Arab terrorism. They might stop Israelis from protecting themselves but will never stop terrorists from carrying out atrocities. Does anyone really think that the Muslim terrorists who have openly and blatantly desecrated one of the most precious Christian churches, by invading it with their murder weapons, will obey any rules?
A multi-national force is necessary to protect innocent civilians and to create an atmosphere of calmness for the opposing parties to start negotiations. Without an independent force, the cycle of violence will persist and no party will come out victorious. The Israeli military response to suicide bombers has given birth to many more suicide bombers.
It was time for a peace keeping
force more than 10 years back.
An international peace keeping force
would be the best thing as they
will be NEUTRAL, aid the peace
process and instil confidence
in both the Palestinian and Israeli
people. Questions is, will the nexus
of Bush and Sharon allow this? The US
has methodically vetoed such
a move in the UN to perpetrate
domination in the mid-east. Has
anyone questioned the US over
spending 3 billion on Israel of
which 2 billion is spent on
weapons of mass destruction.
Tom, Chicago, USA
A multinational force might be the only hope of separating the two sides as long as it has the will and the military power to enforce peace and separate both sides. This would require backing from the most powerful nations of the world.
It's a nice idea but I doubt it will work. What regions would the two sides be allocated before the peacekeepers moved in? Would the Israelis get to keep the land they have recently gained in their latest offensive or would this be handed back to the Palestinians? Would the Israelis get to keep their current settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, or would these be handed back to the Palestinians? If the Israelis were to keep their current settlements then would these become sealed islands from the Palestinian areas all around them? It would only work if all the major bodies involved (the US, the UN and the EU) were prepared to back these peacekeepers up with air strikes if they were not heeded or if they came under attack, and of course the US would never agree to that.
Nothing will work as long as Sharon and Arafat are the leaders of their people. Neither wants peace. I know that many Europeans and others have forgotten that Arafat is an accomplished terrorist who participated in many atrocities. Everybody knows that Sharon is completely out of control. What is the world to do? Both Sharon and Arafat are extremists with a long and personal history of war and violence. Its hopeless.
Sending a multination peacekeeping force to the Middle East is a bad idea. Most peacekeeping forces are poorly equipped, maintained and armed with absurd mandates. Combine all this together and you have a multinational task force of moving targets incapable of stop terrorism and in the path of an Israeli assault. The idea of sending peacekeepers into the fray before some sort of peace agreement is made is premature and flies in the face of conmen since. They are peacekeepers not peacemakers!
RAK, Glasgow, UK
The so-called peace keepers may be able to prevent the Israeli army from retaliating against Palestinian targets ... But how will they stop the suicide bombers that kill civilians? Further, with the findings of the Srebrenica massacre which stained the credibility of UN peace keepers, Mr. Annan should rethink his proposal.
Exactly how is the UN going to achieve the peace that has eluded this area for centuries? Institutionalized hatred and its behaviours are the enemy. Attack that and there may be a chance of peace.
Jon, Morristown, NJ USA
The Palestinians have asked for UN troops for years, but Israel and the US seems to dislike the idea. But I think it will for sure be the biggest step towards peace negotiations in the Middle East.
Kofi Annan has made many good suggestions in the past but who listens? This world has gone mad, it is losing its humanity & only might is seen to be right... Political leaders have lost their moral way. These are the days of moral decadence when the world's bullies are going to hit upon the weaker ones... & the bullies are only concerned with their greed and perpetuation of their power. We have entered a new age of darkness.
It is unlikely that an international force will be effective in this conflict. What would the forces role be? Can they protect against random acts of terror against civilian targets? Could they persuade Israel to assuage their military response? Personally, I think the answers to both scenarios is no. There is only one solution, a political solution that will finally end this sad chapter in history.
International peacekeepers have never been invited to the troubles in Northern Ireland since it was a domestic matter. Similarly, the Israeli government has every right to preserve and defend its sovereign integrity. The US government will do this thousands of miles from home. The Israelis are doing so in their own backyard. Try and see it from their viewpoint, they are defensively protecting their people and homes and we should support them.
Andrew, Austin, USA
Kofi Annan is right to push for a long overdue international peacekeeping force in the occupied territories, since the current situation between the Israelis and Palestinians is clearly going nowhere without third-party help that is completely impartial (i.e., NOT the U.S.). However, before people blame the UN for failing in this endeavour, as it inevitably will, do not forget that the UN is two things, both an organization of 50,000 individuals (the secretariat) and a forum where the nations of the world debate, discuss and attempt to come together on international issues. Though the former portion, headed by Kofi Anna, may favour the idea of an international peacekeeping force, the latter portion (and specifically the U.S., which will use its veto power in the security council to quash anything Israel dislikes) will never allow it to happen.
We need some sort of intervention now. With out it both sides will only contribute to the cycle of violence and terrorism for both sides. Let's remember that only a small portion from both sides are acting out violently, however their victims are civilians. For all people in the Middle East, and for the rest of humanity, let some organisation intervene and stop the violence and human right abuses. We need it done NOW!
Dan, Virginia, USA
The US would veto any attempt to implement a UN deployment in the occupied territories. Look at its history of unequivocal support for Israel even in the face of possible war crimes.
Going by Israel's scant regard for the UN, there is no point. Adding what has just happened here in Holland with the DutchBat, who wants to take on the job of intervention on that scale?
It is absolutely clear, even to a neutral observer that an international peacekeeping force would never work unless it also took on a credible anti-terrorism role. If you put peacekeepers between two groups carrying out overt military operations against each other, it could work. But if the peacekeepers aren't going to be checking Palestinian areas for suicide bombers or actively trying to root them out, then all we would see is continued suicide bombings with the peacekeepers preventing Israel from moving into Palestinian areas. Such a situation would be untenable. Israel would become desperate and would eventually try to force their way past the peacekeepers in order to retaliate. The peacekeepers would be holding Israel down while the Palestinians landed their body blows.
Bea, Oxford, UK
The UN troops should have been on the ground since 1967. If the organisation fails to send troops now, it will show the world that it is useless.
A multi-national force will probably help to keep a lid on the violence for the duration of its stay in the area. That is an entirely different scenario to most people's concept of peace, which, in its most basic form, is the desire and ability to co-exist without resorting to violence. I confidently predict that as soon as any peace-keeping force withdraws from the area, suppressed tensions will once again erupt into violence.
There can no longer be any doubt as to how ineffective US policy is with respect to its foreign policy. What was the point of G. W. Bush telling Israel to 'leave without delay' when all the while he meant 'do as you please with my blessing?' Frankly the US, EU and UN are weak in face of Israel's defiance. How will Iraq, Iran and North Korea read this weakness?
Vikrom Narula, Bangkok, Thailand
A peace keeping will not help the situation in the Middle-East. On one side it won't be able to stop the fanatics bent on the destruction of the Jewish nation while putting pressure against any retaliation on the only people they can talk to: the Israelis.
The proposal to establish a peacekeeping "force" in the occupied territories is obviously late in coming, and yet to early for the International Crimes Court to do anything about, but better late than never! Now it's a matter of defining "force", EXACT locations, and terms of assignment. The force will have to be "heavily" armed, in order that we can avoid another incident like Srebrenica, with "peacekeepers" standing passively by, while one side exterminates or terrorises thousands of innocent civilians from the other side.
I believe any UN member country not complying with any UN resolution should be sanctioned. Also the use of UN peace keeping force should be a further possibility.
Jeremy, London, UK
Well yes the mission was a failure, nothing surprising about that. As for Mr Bush's comments that it was because of the EU and the UN that he sent Colin Powell to the region, and then refused any responsibility when Colin Powell was to meet Yasser Arafat, it's clear that America had no intension of taking responsibility of the problems in the Middle-East. At least Colin Powell had a nice sightseeing holiday.
It's about time we stopped finger pointing and screaming it's their fault. Get a neutral party, preferably of a religion not based in the area such as the Chinese or India, and let them go in under the UN auspices. Then start peace negotiations. It's no good blaming the Israelis when they panic over suicide bombers and it's no good blaming the Palestinians when their children are gunned down with tanks and they go nuts. Let's end the circle and make peace happen.
To Alik, Israel - Nice that you get your facts from such independent sources. Very unbiased. About an international peacekeeping force, isn't it nearly too late? At the last count I saw (before Jenin) we had 1,400 (approximately) Palestinians dead, compared with 444 Israelis. Every one of those lives is lost forever and is irreplaceable. Had Israel accepted the observers, or peacekeepers a year ago, the vast majority of those people would still be alive today.
The speaker of the IDF ( Israel Defence Force ) said the Palestinian terrorists that took control over the Church Of Nativity are setting fire in some places of the church and stealing some of its money. The EU should understand that peace and terrorism can't go hand by hand.
Anyone really believe Israel has any plans to relocate her 200.000 citizens from West Bank and Gaza? That'd be too much of an undertaking for any nation. Israel is not interested in creating a Palestine nation because they know the Palestinians will never allow Israeli colonies in their future country. Mr. Powell never had a chance...
As long as America stands in such a biased manner behind Israel there will never be peace. The EU does not have the will-power to weigh in on the matter, so its for a new broker to stand up and take on the challenge. Maybe if neutral countries like Japan or China would speak up and push themselves into trying, something will come of it.
Colin Powell has achieved exactly what Henry Kissinger achieved. Nothing.
The peace negotiations should be decided by, say, a Welsh local court or something of the like. An entity that has no agenda, no interest in the Middle East etc. The UN, EU and US should stand behind this court in whatever it decides and make it happen. Having anyone but the UN or a completely irritant court make the decision is to me insane.
How can the Palestinians consider any peace deal when the Israelis continue their war and cut out Arafat? The only peace both sides can have is to stop the Israeli occupation, set up two different countries and realize that the Palestinians have every right to a state.
Overall, though, I will be amazed if these meetings come to any peaceful resolution.
While on his way Powell stopped over here and there for a week to give Israeli's the time to massacre 500 in Jenin. Now when he is leaving he has promised Israel stead fast support in the future by assuring that military aid in the form of F-16's and Apache's would continue to pour in. Tell me why does the US not enforce the three UN resolutions it passed a week ago? How do they leave IDF to brutalize Palestinians in their own land?
Loes, the Netherlands
What did Powell's mission achieve? More evidence that the Orwellian drive to depict Arafat the terrorist as Arafat the diplomat by wishful thinking, tainted journalism, and opportunism, will not be discredited by any of the facts that prove it worthy of ridicule.
It is very revealing judging by the rhetoric and propaganda in many of these comments that most do not understand the issues here. Maybe the US can help but only if we see more leadership and less martyrdom from Arafat and the PA. And why is the Saudi initiative considered so high on the list?
Was Powell serious in this matter?
The world was aware of Powell's mission impossible in the Middle East. It has practically achieved nothing. There has been no ceasefire or full Israeli withdrawal from the Palestinian areas. The suicide bombing continued while he was there and will probably continue. Arafat is still living like a bird in Ramallah cage. However, we should admire Powell's efforts as he succeeded in talking to both Sharon and Arafat, if they have listened to him is another thing.
It showed the world that the USA has very little influence over the actions of Israel.
V. Singh, USA
We in Israel know about UN forces. They were in Lebanon and took pictures when the Hezbollah kidnapped our soldiers.
If not 'peace' Powell can find a cease fire agreement that suits both sides. That would be a reasonable aim for the Bush administration. Peace like the amity between Britain and Germany right now is a very far off possibility.
The simplified approach to the world's issue taken by the Bush administration wasted Powell's effort.
Mr. Powell's trip was a great success. The connection between the PA and the suicide bombing in terms of financing weapons, bomber perpetuity funds, salaries for the various terrorist groups and organizational command and control in clear. With the fact that the bases of terror were right under the UN's nose in the refugee camps and they did nothing diplomatically (at the very least) to stop it will clearly result in the dismantling of UNWRA. The cessation of bombing clearly lays to waste the ridiculous argument of the EU that there is no military solution. There is a military solution, an ugly yet legal one.
Even Jews I know here in New York think Sharon is a maniac.
Everybody is quick to judge the US and praise the UN. The UN is nothing without the US military power, and the EU is too weak in the knees to implement any UN declarations. The US should hold a conference with the Arab nations in the region who have an interest in the stability of the Middle East. The world should come together to solve the issue and not discount the nation who is attempting a solution.
I think that the peace efforts are based on a flawed premise, that there is a common ground that can be negotiated. This would be the case if the Palestinians wanted peace, and to have their own, independent country. But that is not what they want; they've been offered that repeatedly for over 50 years. The Palestinian people have been betrayed by their leaders, who would rather lead a revolution than live in peace. As long as their culture is dominated by radicals who would rather die than live in peace with Israel, that is what the Palestinian people will have.
Any peace conference should not involve the European Union. The EU has shown no balance or impartiality in their involvement in the region and their clear support of the Palestinians and their stance against Israel makes it impossible for Europe to command respect as honest brokers.
A peace conference has got to be a start, preferable to no peace conference. I can't help feeling, though, that the whole intifada has been a big waste of time for the Palestinians, resulting in huge losses of life for both the Palestinians and Israelis. Why did Arafat refuse Ehud Barak's offer of 97% of the land he was fighting for (which included East Jerusalem)?! Had he accepted, there would have been a real, independent Palestine, and none of the deaths we've seen instead. I think Arafat worries about how he would survive if he achieved statehood, and as a result he chooses to fight, for little good reason. Sharon has been made a scapegoat, not helped by his past career.
Whether it's the US-led peace conference or the Saudi peace plan, any effort to bring peace to the region will only work if the UN plays the key position in setting up the rules and enforcing them with utter fairness and respect to both parties. A peace conference that represents the interests of only one party will only worsen the situation.
Any peace conference has to include both sides not just one or the other. If Arafat is not allowed to attend then it will simply breed resentment among the Palestinian people because they will feel that their plight is being overlooked. It is also important to make it clear to Ariel Sharon that he cannot dictate the terms of any peace conference. Both Europe and America have been dragging their feet over the problems in the Middle East and have been giving Sharon more and more time to get his act together. Finger wagging and empty threats will not resolve this situation, and whilst Arafat is one of the least desirable people in the world he is the leader of the Palestinian people and they deserve to be represented.
Simon O'Brien, UK
I feel many of the postings here are too quick to dismiss the trustworthiness of Yasser Arafat. The setting up of the Palestinian Authority has always been something of a poisoned chalice. It failed to satisfy the aspirations of the Palestinian people for a viable state, while making Arafat the one responsible for enforcing the status quo. Great for Israel, except if he went too far in repressing his people, he risked alienating his own constituency. An unenviable position, which deserves a little more understanding.
This is nothing but a time wasting suggestion by Sharon. UN has passed a resolution asking for Israel to withdraw from the occupied area, but Sharon last night denied that they are occupying any Palestinian land. This means he has no intention of giving anything back, so of course there is no point in discussing anything with him. Both sides need someone from the younger generation to take control. It's time for the warriors to leave the table.
Octavio Bustamante, Tijuana, Mexico
To hold such a conference without Arafat would be a serious mistake and misstep in any attempt to settle with Israeli/Palestinian war. It will be seen by the Arab people as a clear indication that Sharon has won WITH the assistance of the United States. And, what we have seen thus far in this conflict won't even compare to the uprising of the Arab world.
This is nonsense, how many initiatives, conferences and reports should be put on the table until we reach to some agreement that the Israelis would approve! There's already Mitchell, Tenet, the Saudi initiative and the recent UN resolutions and all of these were refused by the Israelis. Why would the Palestinians go to negotiate when the Israelis has already refused all of these initiatives? It is a complete waste of time.
The USA, working in conjunction with the UN and the states of the region, ought to do their best to put forth a peace conference. I disagree with those who say the Jewish lobby will make the USA partial - because concerning foreign policy, the USA does what is in its own interests, and the interests of those who want a continuation of Israeli actions against Palestine clashes with the US desire to maintain stability in the region.
In principle I support a peace conference, but I believe there is no point for three reasons. Firstly, Israel/Sharon will not accept the Saudi Peace Plan. Secondly the US is so biased towards Israel it cannot chair the conference. Thirdly, if the US/Israel gets its way Arafat will not be there, and without him how can anything be achieved?
For many years I have been an impartial although avid reader of the Israeli / Palestinian situation. But one man, Sharon, has changed all this. I now have enormous sympathy with the Palestinians. If Sharon can have this effect on me, an uninvolved observer, imagine the effect he must be having on the Palestinians themselves. I therefore cannot foresee how Sharon can genuinely promote any form of peace. He is not a man of peace.
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