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article imageOp-Ed: Israel and Palestine - Talks going well. Do not expect peace

By Frank Kaufmann     Sep 17, 2010 in Politics
New York - George Mitchell and Hillary Clinton say Peace talks in Sharm e-Sheikh are going well. This is good news. Nevertheless we should be reasonable in our hopes.
George Mitchell visited Damascus Thursday for talks with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Channel 10 news in an exclusive interview on Thursday, "talks will "take time" and are "complicated."
The Israel Defense Forces killed a Hamas military commander in the West Bank, Friday.
Hamas has declared its objection to the recent relaunch of direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, saying that Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas does not represent the Palestinian.people and is not authorized to negotiate on its behalf.
In the midst of it all George Mitchell says: "In negotiations brokered by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas were having a "serious and substantive" discussion.
All sincere and genuine efforts for peace deserve support and encouragement, be they a a benefit concert by ZZ Top, or a thousand Vegans meditating by the sea. In this case four senior politicians meet in Egypt, while other important politicians in the neighborhood shuttle about this way and that to weigh in, and weigh in they should.
This is all good. Very good. We wish each soul in the play strength and the angels of clarity and courage.
No one doubts that political dimensions play a very significant part of the tragic and enduring tensions in the Middle East. As such all the world should be grateful that figures from the very top of the political ladder are involved in talks. Talk is good, and to have direct conversations among the top most decision makers is best.
Unfortunately politics make up only a narrow and delimited dimension of the quest for peace. They are not the heartbeat of conflict, our obsession with such talks notwithstanding. Indeed, politics are not even the central dimension conflict and reconciliation. They are important surely, but not central.
The nature of conflict is rooted centrally in human dimensions that should be tended to primarily by spiritual and religious leaders, namely the management of passions, and the impact of ideology and conviction. Neither are the proper purview of politicians. It should count as foolish to expect mere politicians to have any particular expertise on such things.
We should not expect politicians to bring about peace anymore than I would expect a major league short stop to perform brain surgery. This is not to say I disrespect short stops, I would just rather they not perform brain surgery. In the same way we should stop expecting politicians to bring "peace." But we should not ask them to do something they cannot do, even if they talked for 1000s of years. Rather we, in each of our respective capacities should help our politicians to advance political arrangements that support peace.
Mature and thoughtful adults know what politicians are like and how extremely limited they are. The press ties them up, they tend to lead lives of constant compromise, what they do internationally is bound up domestically, and what they do domestically is bound up internationally. Politicians are beggars for "a little more time" (votes), they are always in the cross hairs of some ambitious "opponent" on their left and another on their right. Except for abusers of so-called democracies, few are ever around (with official power) very long, and successors can undo their respective houses of cards in no time at all.
How on earth, why on earth have we come to the place where we constantly look to such pitiable individuals to "bring peace."
What of the Nethanyahu-Abbas talks, under the loving care of Clinton and Mitchell? May they talk and decide for years to come. May they be blessed with sound political insights, plans, strategies and the kind favor of circumstances outside their control. May Gaza people stop bombing Israel. And with that may these politicians do well to negotiate shared commitments on such issues of housing, water, work, check points, and many other politically controlled contributors to human dignity. But please dear reader, spare these mere politicians from the burden of "bringing about peace." it is not their job. They cannot.
In the mean time, may spiritual and religious leaders who ARE responsible to address the real causes of conflict, rise from the base habits of political behavior, and properly support these political conversations by pioneering advances in the command of passions, and the impact of ideologies toward the ways of reconciliation and harmony.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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