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
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.