But Not Gaza Only!
All too often one hears that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is
destined never to be resolved. "Not all conflicts are solvable. Americans
have to get over their naïve notion that every international conflict has a
solution," or so we are told.
Of course, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not the only one deemed
unsolvable by partisans of one or another of the sides. I have heard Serbs
and Croats say the same thing: Indians and Pakistanis, Irish Protestants and
Irish Catholics, and Greek and Turkish Cypriots, to name a few.
The irony is that the closer one is to a particular conflict, the harder
it is to see that it is eminently solvable. Thus, Jews will look at the
Irish situation and say that resolving it can't be that difficult. Both
sides are Irish and Christian; what's the big deal?
And most of the world had a hard time seeing what Serbs and Croats were
battling over. They speak the same language and share a common ethnic
To outsiders, these wars made little, if any, sense. Couldn't these folks
understand that ethnic hatred was getting in the way of a prosperous and
But, for the most part, it is only the outsiders who view these ethnic
wars dispassionately. The same people who view others’ strident nationalism
as ridiculous will quite often become equally chauvinistic when it comes to
his or her own group.
And so we hear from otherwise enlightened people that, while other
national and ethnic conflicts are throwbacks to the bad old days, the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict is, in fact, the one that cannot be resolved.
Some Jews say that it is unique because the Arabs will never accept a
Jewish state and their Arab counterparts say that Israelis will not be
content until they have taken every last dunam of land.
But the conflict is not unique. In almost all its basic elements, the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict resembles virtually all the other
national/ethnic conflicts on the planet. It's about land, refugees,
religion, holy places, borders, minority rights, etc. -- and so are many of
the other conflicts.
In only one respect is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict different from
the world's other well-publicized conflicts. And the difference is that many
of these other conflicts are moving toward resolution, not in the opposite
The "Good Friday Agreement” of 1998 has had its ups and downs but,
fundamentally, Northern Ireland has been peaceful ever since it was signed
(and now has the fastest growing economy in the United Kingdom). The country
is flooded with tourists and foreign investment is flowing in. And, other
than a few extremists, no one, on either side wants to return to the days of
The Yugoslavian wars are over. Milosevic is on trial and the people of
Serbia-Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia, and even Kosovo are, at last,
recovering from the wars he initiated. Amazingly, Sarajevo is slowly
regaining the multi-ethnic character it had before Milosevic set out on the
path to war.
And, even the world's most dangerous and explosive international
conflict, the one between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, is approaching
"We have a basic roadmap for a Pakistan-India peace process, to which we
have both agreed," Pakistani Foreign Secretary Riaz Khokhar told a press
conference the other day. "War is simply not an option."
Within the last few years the struggle over Kashmir has, on several
occasions, threatened to plunge the subcontinent into nuclear war. Tens of
thousands have been killed in acts of violence since 1989 but now the two
sides say they are done with it. And most international observers believe
they are serious.
And then there is Cyprus. The present phase of the civil war between
Greek and Turkish Cypriots has been going on since 1964, although ethnic
hostilities between the Muslim Turks and Christian Greeks are centuries old.
Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974 out of fear that Greece was about to annex the
island. And, ever since, the island has been split: two-thirds Greek,
This was no benign split either. The two communities were separated
(along a so-called "Green Line") by fences and walls. Refugees stranded on
the wrong side were unable to go home. Both sides blamed the other for acts
of terror and barbarism. Throughout the Cold War, one of NATO's biggest
concerns was that two member states, Turkey and Greece, would go to war over
the treatment of its respective kin in Cyprus.
But now the Cyprus conflict is ending. The fences are coming down, and a
peace plan drafted by Kofi Annan is about to go into effect.
The question is: why now? Did Greek and Turkish Cypriots decide that
their mutual animosity is baseless? Have Greeks forgiven the Turks for the
invasion? Have Turks forgiven the Greeks for precipitating the invasion by
pushing for unification with Greece?
No, the old grievances are still there. The reason both sides are
accepting compromise now is that Cyprus is joining the European Union on May
Without a peace agreement, only the Greek part of the island will be
invited in and Turkey itself, which desperately wants in, would be blocked.
So, not in the name of brotherly love, but in pursuit of the better life,
Greeks and Turks are sacrificing some principles and making peace.
The parallels with Israel and the Palestinians are obvious. Both Israelis
and Palestinians are suffering as a result of the collapse of the peace
process. Economic boom and growing prosperity has been replaced by severe
economic decline. The number of victims of terrorism and violence on both
sides has skyrocketed. A general hopelessness has replaced the soaring
optimism of the years prior to the catastrophic failure to reach an
agreement at Camp David.
But there is some movement. Prime Minister Sharon has pledged to withdraw
from Gaza and from parts of the West Bank.
This could be very good news. But only if Sharon’s proposed unilateral
moves are coordinated with the Palestinians. No warring party has ever made
peace by itself. Look at the list above. Did any of these people end
hostilities without consultation with the other side? Unilateralism, without
coordination with Palestinians, can easily become just another means of
sticking it to them.
That is why the Bush administration should step in and shape Sharon’s
proposal in a way that ensures that “Gaza First” is not “Gaza Last” or “Gaza
Only.” Rather than telling Sharon (as the media reports) that he should
delay Gaza withdrawal until after our Presidential election, it should be
encouraging him to move as swiftly as he can -- but to do it in coordination
with the Palestinians. The last thing Israel (or anybody else) needs in Gaza
is a Hamas-run entity, firing rockets into Israel and instigating suicide
bombings. The Palestinian Authority should be encouraged to help control the
situation and Egypt and Saudi Arabia can be pushed to use their influence on
Hamas to ensure that Gaza does not become an autonomous terror base.
Otherwise, Israel is simply throwing up its hands and leaving, without
reciprocal actions from the other side and without concern over how
Palestinians will be affected. Working with the Palestinians, a Gaza
withdrawal (followed by substantial withdrawal from the West Bank) can be
part of an Israeli-Palestinian solution. Going it alone, as if the
Palestinians did not exist, will almost surely deepen the problem. The Bush
Administration should view Sharon’s move as an opportunity to be seized, not
a problem to be finessed.
M.J. Rosenberg (email: firstname.lastname@example.org) is the Director of Policy Analysis
for Israel Policy Forum and is a long time Capitol Hill staffer and former
editor of AIPAC’s Near East Report.
Source: Israel Policy Forum, March 5, 2004,
From Pullout to Peace
In light of recent speculation concerning Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza
Strip and maybe some West Bank settlements, this Jordan Times editorial
highlights the need for coordinated efforts with regional and international
actors. The editorial also points out that, “Israel must start putting its
own rhetoric aside and make some political calculations. What is good for
the Palestinians is good for Israel. The better life is for Palestinians,
the more secure Israelis will be.” (Source: The Jordan Times, March 14,
Sesame Street Divided
Lauren Gelfond reports on the latest reincarnation of Middle East Sesame
Stories - three separate Palestinian, Jordanian, and Israeli versions
inspired from the U.S. production “Sesame Street”. In these versions
produced during the current Intifada, ‘characters no longer meet “the other”
in the street
– or at all. But
they -- human, animated, or Muppet -- must observe a mandate of tolerance’.
(Source: Jerusalem Post Magazine, March 5, 2004)
A Palestinian Refusenik's Open Letter:
To the Jewish People
“If we look to find a reason to hate each other, we will always succeed
individually, and then fail together. But if we constantly strive to find
reasons to come together, to seek hope and to achieve fairness for both
sides, not even the worst kind of hate can stop us.” Palestinian American
columnist Ray Hanania discusses his efforts in advocating in favour of the
moderate Palestinian voices in the face of ongoing violence and hatred in
the Israeli-Arab conflict. (Source:
http://www.hanania.com/, January 14, 2004)