The peace process is unlikely to be revived with a presidential visit. Facing hardened attitudes in Israel and Palestine President Obama may have to assume a pastoral role.

In the fourth week of March, Obama will visit Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan. The U.S. Ambassador to Israel has announced the agenda for this event: discussions on Iran's nuclear ambitions, Syria's chemical weapons and ideas for the stalled peace talks.

If the agenda is too focused on dealing with Iran and Syria as "emergencies" to be merely "contained" or stopped, this visit will not allow for serious consideration of options of reconciliation.

Coming thirty-six years earlier, Sadat's 1977 visit to Jerusalem may inspire Obama's. The dramatic gesture of the late Egyptian president changed attitudes. The magical ingredient was addressing the human factor in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Israelis expect words of reassurance from the visit of the US president. Israel faces changing and threatening circumstances, near and far. Obama will offer the most comforting of words in Jerusalem. He will no doubt reassure the people of America's unwavering support and he may add that the Jewish state deserves full acceptance from its neighbor states.

Obama should also affirm that Palestinians too deserve a viable state. The security of the two peoples is interdependent.

The president could urge the people of Israel to ponder their future with piercing vision as demography, ideology and regional alliances continue to shift.

He could assert that if the occupation is non-sustainable the people must urge their statesmen to take measurable degrees of risk for peace. If Israelis wish to transform Palestinians to become full partners for reconciliation they must reinforce their sense of entitlement to their land.

The president has to restate his personal conviction -- what in fact is US policy since 1967 -- that continued building of settlements is an impediment to peace.

On his short stops in the West Bank and Jordan Obama must assert that Palestinian disunity immeasurably weakens their case.

Pressing on, he could clarify that Palestinians can unite only on a peace platform.

He could encourage Palestinians to deliver a message to the hearts and minds of Israeli people.

Could the Palestinians unite and offer a statement of full acceptance to Israel? They would need to affirm unanimous acceptance of the state of Israel. They need to visualize no limits for the dividends of a full settlement between Arabs and Israel. The Palestinian leadership could affirm that in normalizing relations with Arabs, Israel will certainly not only prosper, it will serve as a major contributor to the development of this resourceful region.

In addressing the two sides, Obama must offer a bifocal message: Arabs must stop looking at Israel as a thorn in their skin, and Israelis must dispense with the notion that its adversaries are not suitable partners for peace.



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The new head of the Environmental Protection has a history of suing the agency for trying to do its job.

The reach of this story extends from the lowliest working stiff to the highest court in the land.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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