Not surprisingly, America's apparent acceptance of a United Nation's proposal for an international Mideast peace conference has caused rejoicing among Palestinians in the occupied territories but indifference among Israelis.
As proposed, the conference would be held as soon as possible after Iraq left Kuwait and freed all hostages.An informal survey shows the Palestinians are obviously the most pleased because they have the most to gain from some type of Middle East peace plan, while the Israelis, who now have the upper hand, would have less to gain. Iraq has insisted that any possible withdrawal from the Kuwait be tied to the Palestinian issue.
"Now? Today? Really? They are actually calling for a conference? Excellent. Very good. This signifies an awareness of Americans to our problem," said a mental-health doctor in Gaza when told about the proposal.
Another medical doctor said the problems of the Mideast must be solved or a new generation of terrorists will rise up.
The world is beginning to show wisdom, he said but cautioned that there is danger of the Israelis sabotaging such an effort.
An American teacher who has worked for many years in the Gaza Strip said that if war breaks out she's not going to leave the area but is going to "sit on her balcony, correct papers, drink coffee and read."
But "this is wonderful. Maybe there is some hope," she said.
A U.N. worker, who is Palestinian, spoke positively of the possibility of a peace conference.
"All we have heard from (President) Bush is we're going to war. I think this is a 180-degree turn. This seems very, very good."
Another Palestinian, a mental-health worker, also expressed hope: "We are waiting for a long time. Everybody is tired. Everybody wants peace."
I have been in Tel Aviv (early Thursday, MST) for an hour and have talked to nearly a dozen people. Not one person I talked with had heard about the proposal in the United Nations for a Middle East peace conference.
However, there may be a number of reasons for this. Many of the people had been working all night and had not heard the news. But the Israelis to whom I told the news seemed indifferent. This is not necessarily representative of the whole country, but it is indicative of the fact that Israel has less to gain by a peace conference. The Israelis are the overseers. The Palestinians see themselves as being the most oppressed and are concerned about the need for protecting their own security.