An excellent post from Tony Karon on recent seeming successes in Northern Ireland and the implications for the Israel-Palestine conflict:
The original Good Friday agreement ten years ago was brokered by very different parties to the ones who have now joined a unity government. On the Catholic side, it was the SDLP of John Hume who was the dominant voice at the table, while the Ulster Unionists of David Trimble represented Protestant loyalists. But the electorate eventually rejected those parties, and each community chose more uncompromising parties — the Sinn Fein on the nationalist side and the Democratic Unionists on the loyalist side — to represent them at the table.
The government of Tony Blair did not flinch or give up hope, it pressed on, pushing the chosen representatives of both communities into a process that led to agreement. And the agreement may be far stronger than its predecessor, in that it was brokered by hard men on both sides and that has left no significant rejectionist constituency on either side.
This is what makes the search for “moderate Arabs” generally and moderate Palestianians in particular so inane. If, by “moderate,” we mean something like “eschews violence” or “accepts the basic legitimacy of Israel” or both, then, obviously, those aren’t the people you need to strike a deal with. As Yitzhak Rabin put it, “one does not make peace with one’s friends, one makes peace with one’s enemies.” This was also what made Ariel Sharon’s term in office and the breaks — minor as some of them were — he made with the Israeli far-right so significant. Peace doesn’t need to be made by the very most extreme elements on both sides, but you can’t exclude any faction that has a non-trivial following simply on the grounds that that faction’s leadership isn’t moderate. It’s easy, after all, to broker a deal between moderates. The trick is to moderate the views of influential non-moderates.