In a week when the Sharon government announced negotiations with the new Palestinian government for a second hudna, or cease-fire, and when the text of the "Geneva Accord" appeared as a pamphlet with our morning newspapers, it is useful to remind ourselves what we've learned about the conflict over this last bitter decade. And that is that the Oslo-era notion of a comprehensive peace needs to be wiped from our lexicon.
Instead, we should conceive not of resolving the conflict but of managing its intensity. A hudna isn't merely a means to an end but - at least for the foreseeable future, and possibly for this generation - the end itself.
There are several compelling reasons why a comprehensive peace is now unattainable. The first is the near-total absence, among mainstream Palestinians and the Arab world generally, of the notion that Jewish sovereignty over any part of this land is legitimate.
Many of us who initially supported Oslo assumed that a reciprocal realization had occurred among Palestinians. In fact, no such transformation of Palestinian consciousness occurred. The opposite: One of Oslo's many ironies is that, by entrusting the education of a generation of Palestinians to Arafat's pathological regime, the Palestinian people are far less emotionally and ideologically ready for peace than they were before the Oslo process began.
At the same time, we need to recognize the fluidity of this moment and stay open to new possibilities. In balancing the contradictory insights of politics and faith, our challenge is one of timing: how to avoid premature hope that could once again lead us to disastrous political initiatives, while not missing sudden openings for change.
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