Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Time for Sacrifice

**Before I start this post, I want to make a small disclaimer. It's about Israeli politics and the current conflict. I am very interested in this subject, and am generally well-informed, but I am by no means an expert on any of this stuff. I find it fascinating and that's why I am going to study Middle East Studies at Ben Gurion (starting in a little over a month), but please don't attack me too harshly if something isn't perfect. Please do share your thoughts and feel free to correct/add anything that I've left out. **

This following quotation is from a book I'm reading called "The Never-Ending Conflict: An Israeli Military History" by Mordechai Bar-On. I normally don't think about Israel and its establishment this way, but I guess this really is the simplest breakdown of what happened.

"The simple historic fact should be recognized that the entire conflict was initially caused by the uninvited arrival of masses of Jews in a land already inhabited by the Palestinians. But the Zionist project had arisen two generations before the Palestinians began to develop their own separate national consciousness and was conceived in a different world in which European colonialism was not considered a sin. By 1948, three years after the Holocaust in which six million Jews were exterminated, the 650,000 Jews already living in Palestine, of who many, like myself, were born in the country, faced no alternative other than to fight for their personal survival and collective right of self determination."

This makes me sort of sad about Israel. Is it our fault that this current conflict exists? Maybe so. But then again, there are approximately 7 million Jews on a tiny piece of land versus 325 million Arabs in 23 Arab countries, over 2 continents. And also relevant--the obvious--Holocaust and general persecution of Jews, thus providing evidence of the need for a Jewish state.

So, that was how the original basis for the creation of the state of Israel.

Now to the present. Recently, it was leaked that the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (aka Abu Mazen) set down some initial points of agreement in preparation for the November Peace Conference. You can read about it here.

So what's going on here? Israel is at a cross roads. It's probably better to say, at yet another cross roads. I keep thinking--this is it! This is the chance for peace. Or at least some sort of progress.

That's what I thought when Yasir Arafat died in November 2004.

That's what I thought in August 2005 when I lived in a city 10 km north of the Gaza Strip, as the disengagement was just being completed.

That's what I thought when Ariel Sharon created the Kadima party and it seemed there was a new future for Israel, filled with compromise and progress. (Kadima means "forward" in Hebrew).

And now, here we are again. Hamas has taken over the Gaza Strip and has been isolated by the international community. Abbas and Olmert are meeting in a couple months (as well as on a weekly basis) to hopefully make some progress on 2 state solution.

But then, I read articles like this that state that Shas and Yisrael Beytenu (2 parties in the Knesset) have problems with conceding territory, this being one among various disagreements. What's going on here?! It's commonly said in public opinion surveys that a majority of both Israelis and Palestinians are ready for a two-state solution, with a shared capital of Jerusalem

So what do we have here?

Israel "started" the conflict as we saw above. Over the last 60 years (I haven't mentioned more historical stuff here, rather mostly recent events) there have been so many chances for progress, it's tragic. Once again we're at a crossroads and a chance for something truly remarkable and fundamental to occur; some change that can alter the fabric of the lives of both Israelis and Palestinians. And, not only is the opportunity present, the people themselves are ready for change. But then there are, what seem to be, ridiculous politicians who are reluctant to move forward, who want to fight Olmert all the way to the end.

My naive, optimistic thoughts are: this precious moment cannot be missed once again. These politicians--from Avi Dichter to Avigdor Liberman to whoever else might be out there--must see the greater good and sacrifice territory, or principles, or whatever it is that will accomplish peace at last.

As rosh ha'shanah (the Jewish new year) starts tomorrow evening, I hope that this next year will be filled with the necessary sacrifices to move forward.

שנה טובה ומתוקה לכולם
A good and sweet year to all

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