Sunday, January 29, 2006

A Time for Peace

Ever want to slap George Bush in the forehead? {to those government censors out their surveying content for terrorism, no, this is not a death threat on George Bush, rather an indication of my frustration with the situation} Sometimes, President Bush, you need to keep your mouth shut and let events unfold naturally. Will speaking out against Hamas now do anything to change the status of the Palestinian government? Not at all. I see no benefit from the United States saying that we reject any peace talks that would include Hamas. But that rhetoric can serve to undermine future peace initiatives and push the Palestinians closer to radical governments.

If Bush would get his head out of his butt for a couple seconds, he might realize that there is a greater potential for peace in Israel than at any time since Israel’s creation. A number of factors make peace actually possible now, you might even say that peace between the Palestinians and Israelis may be a probability, rather than a mere possibility, for the first time in history. But it won’t happen on its own. Any sort of peace will require the same courage, ingenuity, and out-of-the-box thinking that was necessary to make Israel a reality in the first place. And given the state of the world today, it will also require the support of countries around the world, especially the US.

Let’s take a look at what makes a peace agreement more achievable now then ever before:

The absence of Yasser Arafat from the peace process:
Israel has always seen Arafat as a terrorist and a mortal enemy. But they were still willing to negotiate with him, begrudgingly, because he was the clear representative of the Palestinian people. But multiple incidents of deceit and duplicity inside and outside of the peace process made real negotiation with Arafat impossible. He used terrorism both to raise the international identity of the Palestinian plight and to push any particular Palestinian agenda that was relevant at that time. International monies donated to ease the suffering of the Palestinian people were either taken by Arafat or used for bankroll terror, while Israel descended into worse and worse violence.

The absence of Ariel Sharon from the peace process:
Palestine has known no worse enemy than Ariel Sharon. Yes, part of it has been his military strategies, which have foiled more than a few Palestinian initiatives towards the destruction of Israel. But it has more to do with Sharon’s brutal methods of retaliation towards the Palestinian people. This is most evident in the Sabra and Shatila incident in Lebanon in 1982, resulting in the death of 800-1000 Palestinian women and children. But Sharon’s brutal methods were also evident in the regular closures of the territories, the destruction of houses, the building of the fence, and the targeted assassinations that were all symbols of Arik Sharon’s tenure as Prime Minister.

Softening of the views of some of Israel’s neighbors:
Jordan and Egypt already have standing peace agreements with Israel, and recent Israel/Palestine peace proposals put forth by Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Syria have all included recognition of the State of Israel. Israel’s withdrawal from Jordan has significantly improved Israel’s relations with the country. In fact, before his assassination Hariri had negotiated with Israel, and there was talk that peace between those two countries may have been on the horizon. Even Palestine in the past two years has put forth peace proposals that include de facto recognition of Israel’s right to exist, a huge step towards improved relations on that front.

The change in generation in the modern Palestinian:
The most recent generation of Palestinians do not remember a day in which Jerusalem was a Palestinian city. Nor can the modern Palestinian remember a day in which they lived free of the yoke of Israeli oppression. I can’t speak for the leaders of any movements in Palestine, but most of the Palestinians I have met, talked to, spent time with, they don’t really dream of a return to Jerusalem so much as they dream of having the right to control their own destiny. Palestinians want, and frankly deserve, to live free of the fear and tyranny imposed by the Israelis on a daily basis. They dream of having their own country, their own government, their own economy, and their own life. This is a dream that Israel can and must cater to.

The weakening economy in both Israel and Palestine:
In a region with minimal natural resources, the drawn-out war in Israel and Palestine has diminished tourism, the number one domestic product for each nation. Further, international investment in the region has been stunted by the fear of all-out war and the inability to consistently operate a business due to regular acts of terrorism and closures. But at a time when there is great prosperity in the world, both nations obviously yearn for an increase in the quality of life seen in the countries. It should be noted that many Palestinians have lived in Lebanon, specifically Beirut, before the civil war, and remember how the economy in Beirut flourished while the Muslims, Christians and Jews lived, worked and traded side-by-side.

A real desire by the Palestinian people to find a peaceful solution to the conflict:
Get realistic for a second. Mahmoud Abbas was elected to his office because he was seen as a god partner for peace in these negotiations. And with Abbas having been an ineffective negotiator with the Israelis, simply because he is too weak to push his agenda, the Palestinians have elected a stronger government to negotiate. Hamas was never even a realistic candidate for office until they indicated they would be work towards peace with Israel, and Hamas’ support rose with every declaration the party made indicating that they would negotiate a peace treaty.

The (moderate) success of the pullout from Gaza:
OK, it’s true that Gaza has descended into chaos lately, with a real sense of lawlessness in the territory as a variety of groups struggle for power. But Gaza’s coexistence with Israel since the pullout has not been so bad. There have been some rockets fired into Israel, but there are always rockets fired from Gaza into Israel. There have been a couple of successful terrorist attacks, but the number of terrorist attacks coming out of Gaza today is much less than 2 years ago. Which only goes to show that the terrorism which has haunted Israel is tied to Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian people, and when that occupation is withdrawn, even partially, the Palestinian people respond by curbing the violence.

The rise of a more moderate government in Israel:
Israel’s Kadima party was created with the idea that there is nothing more important than finding a peaceful solution with the Palestinians. So far, Olmert, who has taken Sharon’s place, has been willing to return more land to the Palestinians, a good start to resolving this conflict. And the party does appear to be looking for a somewhat fair resolution to the conflict, including compensation for the hardships the Palestinian people have been put through. Of course there is no real compensation for all that either side has been put through, but this party is willing to move forward towards a better future with Palestine.

The new rhetoric from Hamas:Over the past few months, Hamas has declared that it is changing its positions on many issues in Palestine and Israel. For example, they have eliminated the passage in their charter which calls for the destruction of Israel. They have indicated a priority to working with Israel to find a solution which provides some future for the Palestinian people. And their ties to other countries in the region, as well as their capability in the dispensing of violence and terror, make them a partner who Israel cannot walk over. Hamas is the only government that can negotiate a real future for the Palestinian people, even if the Palestinians recognized this before the rest of the world.

I’m sure many of these opinions are not popular, but I think they are realistic. They show clearly that Hamas could be, and probably will be, a real partner for peace with Israel. But first, the US needs to keep their nose out of the situation long enough for the new government of Palestine to form, and for this government to communicate with and get to know the government of Israel. Only then can the two governments find their common ground, determine where they can trust each other, and work together towards a potential peace agreement.

Posted by Scottage at 9:14 PM / | |