The Chronicle’s View: Let’s hope for peace

Yasser Arafat, the longtime Palestinian leader who has been one of several leaders at the helm of the stagnant Israeli/Palestinian peace talks, died at 4 a.m. Paris time Thursday in his hospital bed.

With his passing, so too passed a long-standing era of leadership and policy. In Arafat’s wake, his position as leader will be occupied by an incoming politician, and while the identity of Arafat’s successor is still up in the air, who he is and what he stands for will undoubtedly have widespread impact on the face of Middle Eastern politics to come.

What will these leaders likely stand for? Foreseeably, the incoming Palestinian leaders will have agendas similar to that of Arafat-and that’s just fine. What’s more important than what type of agenda the incoming Palestinian leader will have is what type of leader-compromising, polarized, moderate, etc.-he is. One of the widely agreed-upon retrospective aspects of Arafat’s tenure as leader of the Palestinian people is that he was not necessarily the biggest proponent of peace in his region. Although he may have vocally disapproved of terrorist attacks and sat down at the peace table with moderate leaders like Bill Clinton and Yitzhak Rabin, little progress was made in the region.

Although the blame for the lack of motion in the peace talks does not, and should not, fall on Arafat’s shoulders alone, it is reasonable to say that a leader more willing to alter his demands in favor of reaching a settlement might be better suited to help the troubled region find some solace.

Hopefully, such a willing leader will be the next Palestinian leader. If he is, the region stands to undergo a real series of changing, the culminating effect of which will hopefully be to bring stability and compassion to the divided and polarized land.

However, peace is not an obligation of the Palestinian people alone. The Israeli government, under the guidance of Ariel Sharon, is equally obligated to alter its historically staunch and unmoving stance.

That means that Israeli and Palestinian citizens alike are under a moral imperative to work together, now more than ever, to reach a settlement in their bloody dispute. With the new leader soon to be named, now is the best chance to alter the ingrained animosity that exists between these two people.

Also, America-being the longtime biggest supporter of Israel, going so far as to help outfit its military with ultra-modern and efficient weaponry-is also implicated in the Middle Eastern peace movement, whether American politicians feel like acknowledging that fact or not.

America has the power and presence in the Middle East to make a stand that benefits the region as a whole, and this position is one that ought to be exploited. While America is engaged in a war on terrorism, it would be shortsighted to ignore the fact that a similar type of war is being waged between right next to the country America is currently occupying. The point is, with the massive shifts the Middle East is set to undergo, the most important thing to keep in mind is that peace, while not necessarily on any one party’s terms, is always in the benefit of the greater good.