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June 3, 2013 at 7:15 AM

John McKay’s Middle East peace mission

Former U.S. Attorney John McKay (Jim Bates/Seattle Times)

Former U.S. Attorney John McKay
(Jim Bates/Seattle Times)

Follow international events and want some rare good news? Read Times reporter Mike Carter’s story about former U.S. Attorney John McKay taking on a 24-month assignment to help Palestinians develop a legal system.

What I desperately want to read into McKay’s new role is some assessment that things might be changing. I want to believe the prospects for peace, however tenuous, suggest the need for a credible, functional legal system.

The Seattle University’s online announcement of McKay’s leave of absence from the law school faculty says he will serve as a senior consultant and Chief of Team for the U.S. State Department rule of law programs.  He will work with a Palestinian staff “to provide support and training to the courts, prosecution and police as Palestinians prepare for statehood and an end to occupation.”

The pursuit of the rule of law suggests more optimism than I have read in decades. Get rid of the vestiges of jurisprudence installed by colonial and military occupation, the flash points of religious authority and the default protocols of bribery and corruption that appear in the absence of real laws, civil procedures and independent courts.

McKay’s assignment is to lay out and build a predicable system of laws and law enforcement. Why would anyone bother if the prospects for a civil society were so improbable? No one has before.

Trade and business opportunities grow with the prospects of peace, and contract enforcement. Bring on a new generation of attorneys who can argue Palestine’s case before the world.

Best wishes Mr. McKay. This is the most promising news I have read about the Middle East in decades.

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