OPEN UP THE WINDOW!
I don't know what it is. Maybe it is the beautiful spring weather. Maybe its Passover week. Maybe it is the fact that finally, finally the Minister of Defense stopped carrying around his gas mask. I'm feeling VERY optimistic. That is probably a dangerous thing. If you expect too much, especially in the Middle East, you are generally disappointed.
Nevertheless, it seems to me (and, again, maybe it is only the weather) that there are a lot of factors lined up right now that have created an infamous "window of opportunity" for possibilities of a breaking of the stalemate here. Here is a list of six factors, most of them not earthshattering alone but all together, may have import.
1. The War in Iraq - The news is better then expected. Except for the predictable balagan, things are going right and and quickly.
2. The Arab World - Shock and awe. They did not expect such a victory and so fast. The Syrians are clearly on GWB's mind and that has to have Bashar nervous. The talk about freedom has to have other leaders in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, et al a bit nervous.
3. The Palestinians and Iraq - No intifada in Iraq. No real fight. A second occupation that is not considered "illegitimate". Maybe even the opposite. See article by Danny Rubinstein in yesterday's Haaretz
4. Abu Maazan and Yassir Arafat - The new Palestinian PM is trying to stand up to the Rais. David Makovsky argues
(like many) that Arafat must be sidelined and it is really viable, now.
5. Ariel Sharon - He is 75 years old. Not running for reelection. He has a stable government. He only has one thing left to do - build a legacy. What will it be. He gave a fascinating interview yesterday
to Ha'aretz. Maybe just words. Maybe not.
6. United States - It is the hegemon. Now more then ever. The moment may soon pass but now it has an opportunity to win hearts and minds not only in Iraq but throughout the region. Could efforts to push Israelis and Palestinians - hard - NOW - be the key to that? In yesterday's NYTimes both the editors
and Tom Friedman
So there you are. Six factors in the region. Each taken separately might be nothing. Add in the exaustion of the Israeli and Palestinian publics, the financial costs of the continued killing and the smell of fresh flowers in the spring....
[Note that thinks are hopeful but I have not mentioned the Mets.] I do want to shout out to my pal Chuck from SoCal and his Mighty Mighty Mighty Disney Ducks who stole two wins in Hockeytown and are thinking about pulling off a big upset in Stanley's tournament. Go Ducks!