Tough job

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 July, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 July, 1999, 12:00am

The elected Prime Minister of Israel, Ehud Barak, has vowed to make peace the aim that he will strive to achieve.

Being a military veteran, he experienced war and its destructive elements. Thus he has chosen to follow the hard route - the road to peace.

Many people hope that Mr Barak can bring peace to the Middle East and put an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict. But ensuring peace in the Middle East is not that easy. Looking at the present situation of the Middle East makes me doubt the ability of Mr Barak to achieve peace in the region.

This is because the Arabs' interpretation of peace is that Israel should withdraw from all the Arab lands it has occupied since 1967 and should consider Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.

I do not think Mr Barak can risk facing the anger of his people by accepting such demands. Furthermore, some Arab organisations and Jewish groups do not recognise any sort of reconciliation between the two sides. That will force Mr Barak to fight on several fronts. Therefore, even if Mr Barak manages to sign peace accords with the Arab governments, that will not guarantee genuine peace in the region.

I cannot imagine Mr Barak preaching the cause of peace, when Hezbollah or Hamas keep launching rockets against Israel. His reaction might be to retaliate with air raids against southern Lebanon and peace will remain enshrined in treaties, but in reality, will be elusive. It seems to be a vicious circle and it is very difficult to see a way out.

There is no doubt that when he was prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu stifled economic relations between Israel and the Arab countries because of his rigid policy. Maybe what Mr Barak can achieve is to revive his country's economy by trying to naturalise relations with his Arab neighbours.

I cannot expect more from him, and even that will be a tall order. It is too much to expect him to achieve a real peace for the Middle East.

At least his moderate policy can be seen as an improvement on the policies of his predecessor. This will help ease tensions between Israel and the Arab countries.