Hope for a Mideast peace

Yes, it’s a long shot that any sort of lasting peace will come of it. But the unprecedented nature of the Middle East peace conference is in itself a positive development for the troubled lands.

The conference began yesterday with speeches by President Bush, Soviet President Gorbachev and Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez. But the meat of the debate occurs today when the Arab states and Israel each give speeches and Friday when rebuttals are given.

Considering the hardline positions taken by both the Israelis and the Palestinian-Jordanian delegation prior to the talks, there seems little hope for an accord. In addition, Bush’s call Wednesday to reopen the “land-for-peace” idea will serve to highlight the differences of opinion between Israel and the other countries, particularly Syria.

But the very existence of the talks is a recognition of the common concern all involved countries have in improving conditions. In addition, it confers a legitimacy to both Israeli and Arab positions that has been impossible to achieve previously.

For the first time, the Arab nations (besides Egypt) have, by participating, conferred a de facto acceptance of the legitimacy of Israel. Israel, in turn, gives a gesture of acceptance to Palestinian autonomy by accepting the two-delegate Palestinian-Jordanian representation.

The outcome will undoubtedly produce “winners” and “losers” in the eyes of the media. But after 40 years of bloodshed, any step that furthers peace will make a winner out of all involved.