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Opinion Why Gaza needs an Albert Reynolds

The situation in Gaza needs someone who can broker peace – someone who has the energy not to take no for an answer;

AFTER WEEKS OF bloodshed, missile fire and international outcry, all is quiet. The people of Gaza no longer have to shelter from Israeli bombardment and the citizens of Israel are free from daily rocket barrages.

But this quiet has come at a very high price. It took more than 2,100 deaths for things to end up where they had began — a truce deal that is essentially identical to the one signed in 2012 after the last Gaza war.

The only result from the conflict is that civilians on both sides of the border must surely have found themselves questioning what was really accomplished — and at what price.

The more saddening fact, however, is everyone in Israel and Gaza ultimately knows the clock is already counting down towards the next conflict. It could erupt in a few weeks, months or years, but it will happen again.

The only solution that would bring a more permanent cessation would involve two key moves — a total lifting of the blockade on Gaza by Israel and a total demilitarisation of Gaza by Hamas. One cannot happen without the other and neither side seems eager to buy into the necessary concessions that could make such a result plausible.

Indeed, the main players are so entrenched in their views that any compromise seems unlikely.

Finding a solution to the Israel and Gaza conflict is not a task for the faint hearted.

It will take someone who can broker peace; someone who has the energy not to take no for an answer; someone who is a master in the art of brinkmanship; and someone who won’t rest until the job is done.

This is why the Middle East needs its own Albert Reynolds to get the job done.

His work in helping secure peace in Ireland proved him to be a no-nonsense, pragmatic politician who was so down to earth all sides felt they could engage with him. Indeed, on the day of his funeral some of the hardline members of the loyalist community shed tears. He was also their peace broker and hero.

Albert did not take sides. He spoke to whoever needed speaking to. Many times he would lose his security detail by slipping into a hotel and leaving by the back exit. A few hours later he could be found sitting in an isolated farmhouse talking to people the world deemed terrorists — sometimes they would be Republican, sometimes Loyalist. He did not care. Whatever it took he would do it. He was a risk taker that knew any workable solution meant all sides had to be listened to and negotiated with – no matter how fundamentalist and obnoxious to rational thinking they proved.

He always confronted people who did not agree with him or were proving to be an obstacle in the process. He would isolate them and peel away at their argument until it fell apart.

He could argue until the cows came home and would stay up all night, drinking tea, waiting to see who would blink first or fall asleep.

Both sides trusted him because at heart he was a decent human being. But he could use aggression too. He once brutally snapped a pencil in Dublin Castle when sitting face to face with Prime Minister John Major to underline his displeasure at a point being made.

Above all, Albert Reynolds knew neither side had the comfort of having the full right of the argument on their side. So, he went in with an open mind and was prepared to listen and to argue, but most of all to persuade.

Some sections of the media often portrayed him as a wheeler-dealer, which he never was. But he was a deal maker. He not only had the skills, but also the heart and passion to get to the core of any argument and force both sides to find commonality.

Sadly, the nature of the Middle East means the likes of Egypt, Jordan, Israel or Palestine will be unlikely to find a clone of Albert Reynolds. He was a remarkable man who may have only served as Taoiseach for two years, but had an impact on Irish history few others can boast.

His unique style and determination does not come around often. It is our luck as a nation we had the right man at the right time to take risks and get the job done. It is the misfortune of the Middle East such a man may never emerge.

Paul Allen is managing director of Paul Allen and Associates PR. Follow his blog here.

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