Tuesday, Sep. 22, 2009

Mideast Hand Holding

A Handshake is a greeting, an expression of trust, a mutual guarantee by two people that — at least in one hand — they carry no weapon. But it can also ensure a measure of distance and convey an articulation of reserve, as if its participants are thinking, Thus far and no further. A handshake is not a hug. There was little obvious warmth when Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu and the Palestinian Authority's Mahmoud Abbas met, under the stern gaze of Barack Obama, at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York City. The history of their nations is littered with too many incompatible dreams, too much heartache, for that. But if Obama has his way, Netanyahu and Abbas will have to get over it. The U.S. President intends to revive the stalled and absurdly named peace process and has proposed moving immediately to final-status negotiations, which means that Israelis and Palestinians will need to talk about the things that most divide them: the future of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees and their families. For those difficult negotiations, a cool handshake is a start, nothing more. And nothing less.