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UNI professor cautiously optimistic about the possibility of peace in the Mideast

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Kenneth Atkinson, assistant professor of history and religion, (319) 273-6990
Gwenne Culpepper, University Marketing & Public Relations, (319) 273-2761

Kenneth Atkinson, assistant professor of history and religion at UNI, lived in Israel during the first intifada. He remembers well the violence, the anger, the frustration of the people. So he was pleased to hear Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon tell the world that 'the occupation must end' and 'the settlements must go.' He was excited to hear Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas say, 'the armed intifada must end now.'

'This is a huge event, a very major step in the peace process,' said Atkinson, who has traveled to Israel many times since his year-long stay in 1986. 'No one has ever said this before. When Sharon says the occupation must end, it would be like George Washington saying that America will return some of its land to Great Britain. As I watch all of this, I'm cautiously optimistic about the possibility for peace in that region.'

Atkinson also said the process would take time, and fanatics on both sides would make efforts to undermine it. 'But the people just want peace. And they know they can't let fanatics dictate policy.'