Leading Article: The Middle East Needs American Engagement

The Independent (London, England), November 2, 2001 | Go to article overview
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Leading Article: The Middle East Needs American Engagement


THERE ARE times in diplomacy when both sides can benefit from straight talking from an honest broker, and that is what the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, offered to the Israelis and Palestinians yesterday. He spoke of the "hard compromises" that both sides would have to take, he singled out the intractable problem of Jerusalem, and he announced the appointment of two individuals, one a State Department official and the other a former military associate of Mr Powell, to be responsible for getting talks restarted.

That Mr Powell made the speech at all, in the terms in which he made it, was a personal victory in the viper's nest of Washington politics. That he was preparing to offer an initiative had been flagged three weeks ago by the State Department and was mentioned several times since. Each time, however, the US top diplomat had apparently been held back by the President.

On the face of it, these proposals mark the first serious attempt by America to resuscitate the moribund Middle East peace process since Bill Clinton's last-ditch effort last year. How carefully Mr Powell had to tread, however, was clear from the elaborate codification of what he said, but so too was the seriousness of his outline plan.

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