Friday, August 31, 2007

Israel-Palestine and the northern Irish peace process

As an American with Irish background, I've always followed developments in northern Ireland with great interest. I was elated this year when the Good Friday agreement finally was realized in a power-sharing agreement. Those two old adversaries, Protestant Ian Paisley and IRA operative Martin McGuinness, now preside over a joint administration in Belfast.

Because this is a "pigs are flying" moment, a most unlikely development, I always thought there would be lessons for Israel and Palestine in the northern Irish peace process. Alas, the new Israeli ambassador to Ireland thinks not, for some pretty convincing reasons--starting with the reality that while the IRA was hoping fundamentally to unite northern Ireland with the Irish republic, Hamas adamantly claims all of Israeli territory for Palestinians. As you might expect, religion looms much larger in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than it did in northern Ireland. A Muslim-Jewish divide is a lot wider than Protestant-Catholic disgreement.

So it's back to the drawing board for peacemakers in Israel and remains one of the most intractable of the world's difficulties, right up there with Kashmir and Sri Lanka.

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