The decision made by the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in advancing elections appointment may form a direction towards peace or towards a wider war. Far larger then the war waged on Palestinians, which led to equally catastrophic consequence on both the Israelis and Palestinians.
The issues of war and peace is again decided by the Israeli voter, but this time after bitter experiences for both; Israelis and Palestinians during the past two years. Human causalities by the thousands, dead and injured, houses demolished, fruitful trees uprooted. Violence committed by Palestinians against Israelis, or violence committed by the Israeli army against Palestinians and settlers, breeds only more violence.
There is no other solution for Palestinian and Israeli security except for a political agreement. Sharon’s decision to advance the elections carries within its content a chance for peace, or a chance for a wider war than seen in the west Bank, Gaza strip, and Israel. The lessons learned from the two-year experience should be repeated throughout the election campaigns of “Palestinians” and “Israelis”.
The coming elections in February of 2003 come at the same time as the Palestinian election campaign. The recollections of previous lessons and previous experience form the pivotal point for future policy. There are some lessons to be remembered.
The Palestinians and Israelis have to recognize each other’s right to live peacefully and securely within respected and recognizable borders. This means that the PNA must fulfill the resolutions of the National Council, which acknowledged the right of Israel to live peacefully and securely side by side with a Palestinian sovereign State on lands occupied by Israel in 1967. In reality, some Palestinians do not acknowledge in these resolutions formulated by government of the Palestinian people, the Palestinian National Council, the legislative institution of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (the political entity for the Palestinian people in Palestine and outside of Palestine).
In Israel there appeared to be some opinions, which reject the recognition of reality, considering the Palestinian right for self-determination and the establishment of their own independent state. This helped greatly in crystallizing the issue in the Israeli society about the return of four million Palestinian refugees to Israel; according to some Palestinian extremists, which inspired the general Israeli opinion that Israel is struggling in a battle of existence not a battle against extremism!
The same thing happened on the Palestinian side, opinions reiterated by Israeli extremists considering the rejection of Palestinian’s right for self-determination and establishing their statehood. Very quickly there emerged in Israel suggestions that there might be a “transfer of Palestinians” There was forcing Palestinians to leave their lands by building settlements on extorted lands. This only served Palestinian extremists. Palestinian extremism met subjectively with the Israeli extremism, which resulted in thousands of victims.
This is the fundamental lesson on the threshold of Israeli and Palestinian elections. The majority of Palestinians want to live in peace and security within an independent recognizable state (1967 borders), I am sure that the majority of Israelis want also to live in peace and security within their recognizable borders.
The issue of war and peace looks very thorny, but on the contrary, may be clear and easy. If both Israelis and Palestinians share this idea of a mutual right of recognition in a peaceful and secure statehood, where is the problem?
Extremists, on both sides, make difficult for everybody to make break though. On the Palestinian side, the extremist continue to clinging to the old dream of “liberating Palestine” the land between the Mediterranean and the River Jordan. While on the Israeli side extremists continue clinging to old colonialist ideas and insist that no state can be established (Palestinian) in the West Band and Gaza. But the main streams on both sides realize, that the peaceful solution is to have both other and cooperate.
I would like to point out that Ariel Sharon holds the chance for peace. He always held the opportunity for waging war; that is a simple matter. Israel has the strongest army in the region using the most advanced technologically and sophisticated weaponry. Israel has weapons of mass destruction and the resolve of a Chief of Staff. He now holds the chance for peace.
This may be wishful thinking, but the subjective reading of the current situation, and studying the destructive results (for both sides) for wagging war in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are clear indications what Sharon should do for the interest of Israelis, and Palestinians.
It is a chance for peace; the world wants peace and stability in the Middle East. President George. W. Bush had given all the green lights, which are currently being replaced with yellow lights, Will Sharon see that? On the other hand, is he going to wait for the red lights or will he understand the message! And if he is hoping for war against Iraq, I want to say to him that war with Iraq will not solve the problem. It is the sole concern of both peoples now on the land of historical Palestine.
Each nation will recognize the rights of the other, and all sides must give up the expansionary ideas, westward, or eastward, and the idea of a “Two States solution” is the way to peace.
Bassam Abu-Sharif is a special advisor to Yasser Arafat.