Paul Greenberg

A scorpion asked a camel for a ride across the Nile.

"Not on your life," the camel replied. "I know you. We'd get halfway across and then you'd sting me."

The scorpion was shocked, shocked at his friend's cynicism.

"Why would I do such a thing?" he asked. "If I stung you, we'd both go down."

"Makes sense," agreed the camel. "Very well, hop aboard."

The two got halfway across when, sure enough, the scorpion stung the camel.

"Why'd you do that?" asked the camel. "Now we'll both die."

To which the scorpion, with his last breath, replied: "That's the Middle East...."

We've been here before. Again and again. Mideast peace negotiations are opened with pomp and ceremony. Diplomats talk. And talk. The leaders of Israel and of one Palestinian faction or another are wheeled out to speak of peace. Deadlines are announced for the successful conclusion of the talks. Hands are shaken, sometimes even on the White House lawn. The fabled peace process labors mightily -- till it brings forth another war. And then the whole charade begins again.

Somebody ought to post a sign on the marquee wherever these various statesmen will be meeting for this latest round of futility:

PEACE NEGOTIATIONS

All New International Cast

Same Classic Script

Continuous Showings

If it all sounds familiar, that's because it is. Because this is where we came in. Whether this show is being staged in Madrid or Oslo or Camp David or on Maryland's Eastern shore. The locale changes, the outcome doesn't. For nothing seems to precede war in the Middle East like peace negotiations. The pattern is as familiar as it is disappointing. It may not be a matter of cause-and-effect, but it's a mighty strong coincidence. Which leads some of us to wonder: Suppose they announced peace negotiations and nobody came? Would the usual war not come, too? That would be nice.

All the parties to this continuing charade assert they're dedicated to pursuing a "just and lasting peace," to use the inevitable phrase for the mirage all claim to seek. They may actually believe it. Nothing enhances a good performance like sincerity.

But there's not much suspense left in this script. By now everybody must know what an eventual peace in the Mideast would look like. The terms have been worked out in conference after conference after conference. Why not just brush off the last, rejected draft of the Camp David agreement, if anybody can find it, and finally sign the thing? If not, much the same agreement can be spelled out again:


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.