For the first time in more than two and a half years there is a glimmer of hope for a Middle East peace process and the establishment of a Palestinian state by 2005, following the successful meeting in Aqaba, Jordan, between US President George Bush, Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas and his Israeli counterpart Ariel Sharon. However, there is still much difficult territory to be negotiated if the Road Map is to have any real chance of success.
The Palestinians and the Israelis have no reason to trust each other. And they don't. Neither side trusts President George W. Bush either. But both realise he is now probably the only person with a prayer of brokering a peace deal between them.
Things have been bad before but over the past two and a half years of the Intifada, the situation between Israelis and Palestinians have deteriorated to what must surely be close to rock bottom.
The Israelis, enraged by the devastation Palestinian suicide bombers have wrought on the populations of their towns and cities, have enforced ever more vicious punishments and restrictions, including demolishing schools, hospitals and homes, frequently with the inhabitants still inside. The imposition of almost 24-hour long curfews and the execution of a 'shoot to kill' policy that has claimed the lives of hundreds of innocent Palestinians as well as foreign observers--some of them in the Occupied Territories specifically to help avert the threat of physical danger to the Palestinians--have further exacerbated the situation.
The Palestinians are being herded into ever decreasing tracts of land and, in the case of the West Bank, suffering the humiliation and the dangers attached to being restrained there by an eight metre high perimeter wall the Israelis have constructed to cage them.
Israeli settlements have continued to mushroom in the hills above Palestinian towns and villages in direct contravention of United Nations rulings. The daily lives of Palestinian men, women and children have gradually descended into the sort of living hell most of us cannot begin to comprehend. Deprived not only of their liberty but also of water, fresh food supplies, the right to work, education--all of the things most of us take for granted--some have resorted to drastic action.
All life is precious and every Israeli death that has occurred as a result of fanatical suicide bombers is to be mourned. But it is the flagrant abuse of, and disregard for, Palestinian life that fuels the...