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Should Israel return land for peace
by Victor Venson, staff writer


Terror, ruins, innocent victims and suicide bombers have filled the headlines with the Middle East conflict that is raging between Israel and Palestine. These headlines have become everyday digest for us as international spectators a war that has lasted for more than 30 years, longer than any other in modern time and from my point of view, far from over.

Israeli forces seized Palestinian territory following their victory in the Six-Day war of 1967. Since then, the Palestinian government has demanded the return of its territory – a part of Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank. The Israelis refuse, saying that there are Israeli communities in those areas with more than 200,000 settlers and that Israel’s presence is needed in some strategically vital parts of the occupied land for its own safety and stability.

The West-Bank area is also important for the Israelis as a part of their biblical heritage, hence the literally devoted opposition. The Gaza areas have less biblical significance, are less populated and therefore less important for the Israelis. The Palestinians see the Israeli settlements as tools of the ongoing occupation of Palestine, working towards a shattered and, soon, defeated Palestinian state. Recently it seems as if people in the U.S. and Europe have in some subconscious way, become more and more indifferent.

When President Bush makes a speech outline steps for Middle East peace, he addresses the people of both countries but mostly criticizes the leadership of Palestine, and appeals them to stop the terrorism. But while Yasser Arafat, the Palestine authority he is addressing, sits in house arrest, surrounded by Israeli tanks, for the second time in a month, how can he do anything? Bush’s speech – and similar speeches by other world leaders seem like efforts meant to be disregarded. It seems as if all the efforts and negotiations to stop the bloodshed are in frozen, and the terror continues – on both sides. Is it time for Palestine to change to a new leadership. Perhaps it is time for Israel to do so as well.

Arafat seems more and more unwilling to negotiate as years go by, and with Sharon as the Israeli authority, the concept of a compromise within a near future seems like wishful thinking. In a recent interview Arafat finally said, “There must be a peace based on the complete end of the occupation and a return to Israel’s 1967 borders, the sharing of all Jerusalem as one open city and as the capital of two states, Palestine and Israel.” Arafat thus now agrees to accept the Camp-David peace plan, which was proposed by former president Bill Clinton. The proposal means that Israel will pull back to the pre 1967 borders, with a few strategically located exceptions where Israeli forces and settlements still will be present.

Another requirement from the Israeli side is to deny the return of Palestinian refugees to Palestine, which the Palestine officials now withstand from. The return of the refugees will cause a population increase in Palestine that will make the Israeli population a minority, according to Israeli officials. Sharon hesitates to proceed with the peace plan that cost a former Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, his life.

Why should Israel pull back? Do they have any kind of guarantees that the Palestinian extremists will stop their spectacles of suicide bombings? The Saudi government says all Arabs will recognize Israel as a state, buy can the Arab world assure that they will stop the supply of weapons and explosives to Palestine if Israel accepts the deal? Yasser Arafat has for the past two decades clamed that he cannot fully control the extremist groups such as Hamas and Jihad from bombing themselves to martyrdom in Israeli cities. How can he then be able to assure Israel that the bombings will stop when he cannot fully control the terrorists?

The extremists are fighting in the name of Jihad, which has been painted up as a “holy war” by the mass media, but Jihad does not mean war. Jihad originally means “striving” or “struggling” in the name of Allah. It forbids attacking, a war can only be allowed in self-defense.

If there is a chance for peace, it must be accepted, according to the Koran. The Palestinians see this war as self defense since, the Israelis settled on their land, hence the Jihad. It is obvious that Arafat, being a former terrorist, has connections and communications with the extremists. It is doubtful though that he has so much influence on them that he can end the attacks immediately.

So the question will be if the extremist groups will accept this partial return of their land or will they continue their Jihad, their striving and struggling to take back the land by force and terror, seeing the few regions that would be controlled by Israel as apparatus for further occupation and annihilation of the Palestinians.




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