What went wrong?

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It was just around a year ago when Palestinians and Israelis were deliberating about when the independent Palestinian state would be born and officially proclaimed. Now all that has dissipated into thin air. So what went wrong?

It would seem that both sides miscalculated and did not play their cards wisely.I came to the conclusion in my old age that the best way to judge anything is by its results. If the consequences of any step, policy or practice is positive and constructive then it must be good. If on the other hand the fruits of any step, policy or practice is bitter and has no redeeming features, then it must be not OK. It is as simple as that.

Applying this standard to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, one would have to come to the conclusion that the events of the last year on the Israeli-Palestinian stage were anything but positive or constructive for either side. For Israel, the violence and the stalemate in the peace talks of the past twelve months have not brought it closer to its strategic objectives, i.e., peace at home, peace across its frontiers, stability or progress. If anything, the effective end of the peace talks with the Palestinians have gotten Israel farther away from its goals.

The same holds true for the Palestinians. The cycle of violence that ensued over the past year has not brought them closer to their national aspirations for freedom, statehood and independence. Despite all the negative features of the era that preceded the events of the past year, it was infinitely better than what ensued over the course of that most eventful year.

In relative terms both the Palestinians and the Israelis were better off prior to the unleashing of events and circumstances that engulfed the area. The sane conclusion that could be drawn is to have both sides try to go back to status quo ante despite all its pitfalls and serious shortcomings.

But does this prescription for a way out of the quagmire mean that all the blood that was shed was in vain. For the Palestinians, it could be argued that the Palestinian blood that was spilt and the destruction that ensued were not really in vain.

The Intifada has indeed brought home to Israel the clear message that the Palestinians are no longer a weak people who can be kicked around and their legitimate rights and aspirations ignored forever. Without honourable peace for the Palestinians, the Israelis would never experience the kind of peace and stability that it seeks for its people.

Gone are the days when Israel may dream of stability and peace at the expense of the legitimate concerns of their immediate neighbours.

The biggest fear is that the damage to the peace psychology on both sides of the fence may have become incalculable and irreversible. There is a saying in Arabic to the effect that too much of even a good thing is the brother of too little.

There are those who genuinely believe that the deployment of additional pressure tactics on Israel would make her kneel and grant the Palestinians the necessary concessions.

On the other hand there are those who hold the opposite view. This is indeed a dicey situation and one cannot be sure which way the pendulum will swing .Opting for either course is fraught with dangers. History is full of references in support of either perspective. It is a big and awesome responsibility to opt for either alternative. This is where statesmanship and wise leadership come into play.

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