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Geopolitics

Middle East, Of Political Dead-Ends And Scientific Hopes

In Bethlehem
In Bethlehem

-Analysis-

Will the world's oldest conflict ever be resolved? There have been a few fleeting occasions over the past 25 years when both Israelis and Palestinians appeared eager to negotiate, and a solution seemed within reach. Alas these are now mere memories — so distant that their effects have largely worn off.

Perhaps there has never been a moment when the political will to find a solution, on both sides, was lower; at the same time, the mediating force the U.S. has long tried to embody is taking a step back under a new leader who seems to have little true interest for foreign diplomacy.

Writing in Paris daily Les Échos, French political scientist Dominique Moïsi laments a state of affairs in which "each party, mostly for interior political reasons, prefers not to deal with the issue, probably convinced that time is on their side: the time of demographics for the Palestinians, the time of strategy and technology for the Israelis." Taking the example of two children fighting over a toy, he deplores the absence of a "teacher" who is "capable and willing to impose sharing." In this context, he writes, "peace can only come from the bottom up, and not from the top down."

While searching for the seeds of peace on the ground in Israel or the Palestinian Territories gets harder every day, there is one that has been planted next door, in the Jordanian capital of Amman. It is a one-of-a-kind multinational Middle East scientific laboratory.

Dubbed SESAME, this particle accelerator aims to bring together scientists from all over the region for groundbreaking research, but also "conceived of as a model of scientific diplomacy, a different way to try to bring about peace," reporter Olivier Dessibourg writes in Swiss daily Le Temps. Can science succeed where politics has failed? One Pakistani professor taking part in the project notes that "great things often start with small steps." But here too, one can only wonder whether time is on their side.

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