THE SPINE SEPTEMBER 20, 2010
I've made this point more than a few times.
Jackson Diehl has made it now, more comprehensively and with greater depth of knowledge about the analog, that is the warring Catholics and Protestants on Northern Ireland.
Now, since the "Good Friday agreement" made in 1998, there has been relative peace between the religiously inflamed factions. But it's unlikely that girls and boys of the two confessions are putting on their ghillies to dance with each other. In fact, in recent months alone, hatred has brought beatings and bloodshed back into the street. Neighborhoods are separated but barriers worse than a fence and even a wall. Moreover, this was not a conflict where the I.R.A. wanted to overthrow the Crown.
In any case, the analogy doesn't work because every ethnic conflict is not just like another. From Diehl's piece:
Mitchell reported on Wednesday that his Middle East clients are actually ahead of the Irish timetable: "The negotiations there lasted 22 months," he said -- a fact that the press has been reminded of numerous times. "And it was many, many months into the process before there was a single, serious, substantive discussion on the major issues that separated the parties.
"In this case, within a matter of literally days since this process began, the leaders have... engaged directly, vigorously, seriously in the most difficult and -- in what are among the most difficult and sensitive issues that they will confront." Mitchell cheerily concluded: "This is a strong indicator of their sincerity and seriousness of purpose."
Netanyahu and Abbas no doubt were pleased to hear how favorably they compare with Gerry Adams and David Trimble. So far, of course, they haven't seemed to make much progress on those "sensitive issues"; in fact, they have been rejecting each other's positions in public.