With one week before the end of the year, people are permitted to dream about seeing their wishes for the New Year come true. There is hope that in 2009, an efficient treatment will be discovered to cure life-threatening fatal diseases like AIDS, cancer and others. There is considerable and "permissible" hope that the lives of peoples around the world will be improved, particularly in poor and desperate areas.
There is also hope that 2009 will be the year of peace in the Middle East, something that is also within the realm of permitted dreams. However, the situation of the Palestinians and Israeli policies do not suggest that this dream will be achieved.
Since the New Year's holiday lets us dream, why not dream of a new American president, Barack Obama, putting all of his weight into pressuring Israel for a true, just and comprehensive peace with the Palestinian people? It is true that there is not much hope of this, since the political and social structure of the U.S. is based on its alliance and bias towards Israel, but dreams are still permitted!
There is also great hope that 2009 will reveal the truth to the Lebanese about the murder of former Prime Minister Rafic al-Hariri and his comrades, as well as those martyrs who fell afterward. Every Lebanese has the right to hope for the truth. The international investigator, Daniel Bellemare, recently told the Security Council that he possessed the information that would give us this hope.
The New Year might see direct peace negotiations between Syria and Israel, according to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who believes that it is natural for indirect talks with Israel to lead to direct talks. Syria is determined to conclude a peace deal with Israel; it is not important if this precedes the Israeli-Palestinian track. However, it is important for talks to begin before Bellemare reveals his information to the International Tribunal. Peace between Syria and Israel alone can ease the impact of Bellemare's findings on Syria.
Can the Lebanese dream of a true national reconciliation, without the hegemony of an informal army that once used its weapons against its own people? Let us dream of better days, of a true peace, of an end to terrorism in Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt and all Arab countries! Let us dream of an improvement in international economic conditions and the punishment of mafias and swindlers like Madoff and others, who have caused financial crises and disasters that have led to an unprecedented financial and social collapse.
We would also like to see 2009 as a better year for the press and the freedom of journalists; we would like to see them released from detention wherever they are, especially in the Arab world.
The wishes that people traditionally express during this time of the year are the same that apply to the world, to states, and to the Middle East. We hope that 2009 will be better for everyone, in terms of health, happiness, peace and prosperity. The New Year's holiday rests on optimism, even though the regional and international conditions do not justify such optimism.
*Published in the London-based AL-HAYAT on Dec. 24.