History Still Has Firm Grip on the Holy Land

Article excerpt

Byline: Jamie Dettmer, INSIGHT

Cast your mind back to those jubilant days when the Berlin Wall fell and hope was in the air once again. Some argued that it was the "end of history" the end of national conflicts, the start of something different. The remarriage of the two halves of Germany was a liberating, frothy street wedding that seemed to promise the beginning of a virtuous cycle. Europe would come together and that togetherness would serve as a model as would the ending of enmity between the United States and

Russia for others not only to applaud but to emulate.

Without the confusing and inflammatory presence of the Cold War, other disputes farther afield would wither away as history ended. The world would at long last be at peace. But the past has a way of making itself felt and of returning. It overwhelms ordinary marriages, so why should we be surprised that it won't let go when it comes to nations?

In the 1990s we were shocked at the return of history and ancient grievances in the Balkans and the barbarity that was thrown up to open ancient wounds. Rwanda, Liberia, the horrific list goes on. Now we shake our heads in horror at the Middle East, where Jew and Palestinian allow history to continue to wreak vengeance and to make a mockery of the few peacemakers around.

As any therapist who is trying to achieve calm in a troubled marriage knows, conflict resolution is one of the hardest things to pull off. He said, she said. He did, she did. Tit-for-tat behavior. Trust evaporates, doubts set in and pride and selfishness are given free rein. The center gives way; the beast slouches toward Babylon. Only a Herculean effort of gentleness and humility, a complete and compassionate refocusing, can save the marriage from collapse. A real, bedrock wish for reconciliation is needed.

Viewed through that prism President George W. Bush's "road map for peace" always seemed a valiant nonstarter. Admittedly, in the Middle East there was no marriage there was never a center to start with. It isn't even a marriage of convenience, but a matter of two people, each determined to rule in one land.

Last summer when returning to the United States from the Middle East, Bush reportedly ventured on Air Force One the comment that, "Maybe history is such that now we can achieve peace." But the past has laughed back. The White House placed great hope in Palestinian prime minister Mahmoud Abbas, who resigned Sept. 6, after deciding that he was losing the security struggle with his boss Yasser Arafat, as he was destined to do.

The departure of Abbas represented a grave blow to the "road-map process" and exposed one of the underlying contradictions of the Bush approach. …