Sadly, Israelis have denied their elder statesman, Shimon Peres, a last hurrah.
The 77-year-old Harold Stassen of Israeli politics and Nobel laureate had once more tossed his hat into the political ring, announcing his candidacy for prime minister, a post which had eluded him five times.
The world, which views Mr. Peres as a statesman of substance, had hoped that at last he would be embraced at home, and given the same respect and praise that he has garnered throughout the world. He apparently hoped so, too, announcing his candidacy pending an endorsement by 10 members of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament. It was not to materialize.
Though he had cozied up to Meretz, a left-leaning peace party and had received some encouragement, its leadership voted 25-17 not to support him for the prime minister's post, though he polled way ahead of Labor's Ehud Barak, and was running neck-and-neck with the hawkish Ariel Sharon.
Former Likud Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who bragged that he could effect the necessary peace, failed as he subsequently failed in efforts to run for the post from outside of parliament. And Ehud Barak, the current prime minister, has not been able to muster enough support among the parties to reach an agreement with the Palestinians.
Much of the responsibility for that lies with the Israeli right which promoted the expansion of settlements on the Arab West Bank, settlements that want to maintain their Israeli ties though they sit on land that should be returned to the Palestinians. Moving the settlers will be dicey, but it must be done as it was done when Israel made peace with Egypt. The rest hinges on Palestinian claims to East Jerusalem and their wish to make it their capital, as Israel has made Jerusalem its capital.
Could Mr. Peres have done what his predecessors couldn't? There's no telling. But the old fox has been around the Middle East for a long time. There's little he hasn't seen or been involved with, and his experience is as long as his vision.
One expects he'd surely do better than Mr. Sharon, whose injudicious conduct sparked the current Palestinian uprising, killing off young Arab men and Israel's noble image.
Both sides are so factionalized that they sometimes seem to need to keep the animosity between them in place to fuel what passes for their national unity. Peace would force each to focus on putting its own house in order. Maybe that's why it's so hard to come by.
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