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What is to be done with the West Bank and Gaza?

The title of Lenin’s famous pamphlet provides us with our theme this week: what is to be done with the longest-running sore in the Middle East and among the longest in the world?

I refer, of course, to the ongoing soap opera of Israeli-Palestinian relations and the status of the West Bank and Gaza. Recently there has been a flurry of new activity concerning this dispute, including a farcical French initiative which provided an opportunity for the foreign ministers of a number of states to waste their time in Paris, while pretending to contemplate a solution in the absence of the parties involved! This has to be the most ridiculous diplomatic initiative of recent history and one hopes that it is simply an indication of nostalgia for the Dadaist art movement of the 1920’s.

However, the involvement of Egypt is another story entirely. In the first place the Egyptians have a direct stake in the issue, which involves its neighborhood. Secondly, the Egyptians have so far done the logical thing, unlike the French, beginning the process by consulting directly with the parties involved: the PA and Israel. Thirdly, the Egyptian initiative follows on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s sphinx-like statement about the now almost-forgotten Saudi initiative offering formal recognition of Israel by the Arab countries when and if Israel and the PA make peace.

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