The Chanukah candles have been doused and the Christmas ones lit. Now we can have some new light on another of the eternal issues. Coexistence between Muslims and Jews in the land both consider Holy. We can consider it with some optimism.
The election for a Prime Minister for the Palestinian Authority looks like being the first kosher election for an Arab Head of Government ever. It appears that the rolls will include most adults, and that not even Hamas will dare to sabotage them. It is a grand and novel statement to be able to say that, unique amongst Arab governments, the Palestinians have a chance of getting to a democracy first. Although this cannot be said of Muslim governments because Turkey and now Indonesia have had fair elections. However this will give any incoming government domestic and international authority the PA never had.
Iran, the supplier for its Palestinian comprador Hizbollah, seems to have succumbed to European pressure over its nuclear program, and therefore appears less of the mighty power it once seemed to its Palestinian satraps. With local opinion polls saying, for the first time, that Palestinians disapprove of suicide bombings, the chances of a legitimate election are improving. The new government will have more room to move than any previous leadership.
On the Israeli side the prospects are even better. The reformed government of Prime Minister Sharon looks like being able to deliver on disengagement from Gaza, has indicated flexibility otherwise eschewed, and with the Labor Party in it, will be committed to discussion about a more or less permanent peace. Sharon will bring into a national government Peres and the Labor (similar to the melange of the same name in Australia) peaceniks. He has shut out Shinui, (middle class secularists) on the issue of the budget, but they will still support him on disengagement. Shas (the Sephardim working class with a flavour of religion) seems likely to join the coalition. The National Religious Party (more or less moderate settlers) is out, but United Torah Judaism (hardline religious) is in. Therefore the new government will be more secure with its Knesset numbers that any before it and Netanyahu has been gelded as a potential rival.
Both sides could go into talks about long term solutions with more authority, security and hope than either of them have ever had before.
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