The United Nations recently voted unanimously in favour of Palestine’s request as a “non-member observer”; paving the way for a future Palestinian State. This was met with mass jubilation by not only Palestinians but the whole Middle East. Peace loving communities worldwide have welcomed the move, as the first step to the two-state solution, which many political analysts have always seen as the ONLY way out of this century old saga.
But just when the world was breathing a sigh of relief; that “peace at last” was on the horizon, Israel with the backing of its step father the US, has unilaterally taken upon itself to throw a spanner in the works. In what looked like a feast of fury, the Israeli government declared that it will build 3000 homes in the disputed territory.
Defending Israel’s decision, Mr Steinitz said his government could not have remained indifferent to the Palestinian’s unilateral move at the UN. By implication, he is saying that Palestine was wrong to ask the world (UN) for recognition as “a non-member observer state”. With its newly acquired status, Palestinian officials are reportedly threatening to haul Israel to the ICC; if it carries out its plans for the new settlements. The new status conferred on Palestine has suggestively given the PA some leverage to undertake such measures if it chooses to do so. Many critics believe that it is this newly acquired status, with all its inherent privileges and rights to haul perpetrators to the ICC that Israel is not comfortable with. By implication, Palestinians can bring charges against Israel for human rights abuses, if they choose to do so.
It is against this background that both Israel and Palestine need to realise, accept and make the painful sacrifices for peace, as there are no winners in this. In war, it is not about who is right but who is left. Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding. It is therefore not surprising that Israel’s latest stance has drawn worldwide criticism and raised eye brows from even its traditionally staunch supporters and sympathisers. “Britain, France and Sweden summoned the Israeli ambassadors in their respective capitals to hear deep disapproval of the plan to erect 3,000 more homes in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem” (thisissierraleone.com). Israel’s plans for “preliminary zoning and planning work” for housing units means that it will dissect the West Bank, cut off Palestinians from Jerusalem and further dim their hopes for a contiguous state.
The settlement plan has also been condemned by the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. The UN Sec. Gen., Ban Ki Moon stated that the deal “would be an almost fatal blow” to a two-state solution. The French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius went further and called Israel’s plans “a new era of colonisation”, and that it will “sap the necessary confidence in a resumption of talks”. According to The Independent Newspaper, Britain and other EU governments have warned Netanyahu he may lose Western Support, amid reports that trade deals may be cancelled and ambassadors recalled.
Although some critics have sarcastically likened the issue between Palestine and Israel to dispute over real estate, it goes beyond acres and hectares. What Israel and Palestine need to accept is the bitter truth of “the need for co-existence of a symbiotic nature”. Israel wants and deserves peace. Israelis have their God given right to live in peace and go to bed at night, without having to check if their bomb shelters are intact. Israelis need to go to bed without thinking of when the next rocket is going to fall in their living rooms. Irrespective of what people like President Ahmadinejad of Iran had said; that Israel is a manufactured state that needs to be wiped off the face of the earth, both communities need to live peaceably. Just like their cousins, Palestinians need a home, a state, schools, and all the trimmings that define a people.
Solving the Middle East problem, courtesy of the Israel-Palestine conflict will not mark the end of the world’s troubles. But it will go a long way towards mending some of the ills and what many latch on to, as their raison d’être for engaging in terrorist activities. It is a common knowledge that even “terrorists” from far flung areas like Chechnya have used the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as their source for aggro. Peace and an end to this conflict will deprive such people of the oxygen needed for an excuse to carry out atrocities elsewhere. This is the painful truth that both sides need to wake up to. In order to achieve the peace, “major and painful sacrifices need to be made”, if for nothing else but for posterity in the region and even beyond. Both sides need to move away from the notion that war is peace or freedom is slavery.
History teaches us that there has never been an armed solution to an armed insurrection. From Africa to South America, Europe and right down to Asia, all armed rebellions or interregna have had elements of round table talks embedded in them for lasting peace. The FARC rebels fought for years in Columbia, resulting in kidnappings, beheadings, ransoms and significant loss of lives. The futility of their rebellion was realised and the ongoing peace talks have now become the modus operandi. In Indonesia, in spite of the recent criticism levied against the UN for not investigating the human rights abuses, the government and the Tamil Tigers are now talking peace over tea; as the ultimate solution. Britain was involved in a 35 year long “war” with the IRA in Northern Ireland. Both sides made their demands and drew red lines in the sand. Under the guidance of Jerry Adams, Pat McInnis and various British Ministers, both sides agreed to disagree on the need for peace. One of the contending issues was Britain’s demand that the IRA must lay down arms before peace talks. After lots of political gymnastics, both sides came to a peaceful resolution that led to the Stormont Agreement. Margaret Thatcher once said that “it pays to know the enemy – not least because at some time you may have the opportunity to turn him into a friend”.
There are still some people who would like to go back to the old bad days; evidenced by splinter groups trying to fill the vacuum. One of the ingredients required to fan the flames of war or rebellions is community support. The people of Northern Ireland were constipated with a generation of war, and the yearning for peace was ably demonstrated when they participated in the elections that ensued. Although there were still elements that wanted and may still want to maintain the status quo of war, the majority spoke with one voice; hence the appetite for fighting suffered from a political and military asphyxiation. The people now have peace at last. “If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy and then he becomes your partner” (Mandela). You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist.
Israel had recently enjoyed widespread support in its retaliation against “Hamas”, after rockets from the latter reached Jerusalem and killed 5 people. In spite of the disproportionate death of 140 Palestinians, many considered the collateral damage as justified by Israel; to defend itself. The paradox is that while the Palestinian Authority is taking the political route, Hamas seems adept at pulling the heart strings of Israel to take retaliatory action that will make it look bad in the eyes of the world. It is this twin track relationship with both the PA and Hamas that leaves Israel open to criticism. Israel cannot afford to not defend itself against Hamas. But if Israel and the PA can focus more on a political settlement, like the IRA, Hamas will become redundant. Palestinians, especially those in the West Bank understandably see Hamas as their defender, but any major breakthrough for peace will change Hamas’ job description. Judging by the cyclical nature of war and peace, and the recently brokered peace between Hamas and Israel, you can be forgiven to conclude that it far easier to make war than peace; which begs the question as to whether war is an interlude during peace or vice versa. Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal; co-existence. There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.
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