They floated along Israel’s coastline, then came ashore – and when members of the PLO’s Fatah faction were through, more than 20 Israelis (including children) had been killed. Days later, Israeli troops entered Lebanon in what the New York Times called a “retaliatory raid.” It was March of 1978, and peace in the Holy Land never seemed so far away. Except that six months later, Israel and Egypt signed a historic accord that heralded a new era in Arab-Israeli relations. And then, the next year, more killings of Israelis and Palestinians, and more revenge killings. The Sabra and Shatila massacre of 1982 signified how low the Arab-Israeli conflict could get – and yet, a decade later, Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin were shaking hands on a new agreement for peace.
It doesn’t seem possible now, but Arab-Israeli peace is still a distinct possibility in the year ahead, despite the finger-pointing after Monday’s horrific flotilla fiasco. George Mitchell, President Obama’s special Middle East envoy, is scheduled to meet today and tomorrow with Palestinian and Israeli leaders. Peace is the Holy Land is a priority for the Obama administration, just as it is for hundreds of thousands of Israelis and Palestinians who are urging their support for a two-state solution through the OneVoice movement. It’s not all darkness in the Middle East, even though it seems that way now.