ENCOUNTERING PEACE: Addressing the core

By
March 16, 2016 21:03

The willingness to fight, die and to kill in the Israeli- Palestinian conflict has been clearly demonstrated (by both sides) for more than 100 years.




A jewish man passes a banner which reads ‘Peace Now’ during a pro-Israel demonstration

A jewish man passes a banner which reads ‘Peace Now’ during a pro-Israel demonstration held in Amsterdam several years ago.. (photo credit:REUTERS)

Putting an end to the current Palestinian uprising is not rocket science. It must obviously include putting an end to incitement as well as creating and fostering a culture of peace by Palestinians – officials and the public (it must also be done in Israel).

The way to do it is not through the use of more force, home demotions and expulsions.

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This has all been tried in the past, with no success. Those tactics will only lead to escalation and increased participation by those who presently are not taking up knives to try to kill Israelis.

Those tactics do not create deterrence. Those who are trying to kill Israelis and get killed in the process are not afraid to die. When there is no hope for Palestinians for a better life, they are not deterred by fear of what will happen to themselves or to their families.

Yes, they are encouraged by what they see on Facebook and all around them. Yes, they are called heroes and martyrs and this does influence them. But the response by Palestinian society to their “martyrdom” will not change until the root causes of that support are changed.

The willingness to fight, die and to kill in the Israeli- Palestinian conflict has been clearly demonstrated (by both sides) for more than 100 years. There is a direct connection between loss of hope, economic despair, the belief and understanding that the occupation will continue undisturbed and the support of Palestinians for violence against Israel.

Like in the past, the violence will only end when Palestinians understand that there is a genuine chance of liberation, ending the occupation, and peace. The use of violence by Palestinians against Israelis will only end when Palestinians themselves decide to withdraw the legitimacy of violence as a means of achieving their national goals.

This may go against what most Israelis believe, namely that it is the deep, ingrained hatred of Jews that feeds Palestinian violence, but this is not how Palestinians see their own situation. It is important, in fact essential, that we see and understand how the Palestinians themselves view the use of violence against Israel if we want to understand how to end it.

And while it is true that today there is deeply rooted hatred against Jews and Israel, it does not come only from incitement, it comes mainly from nearly 100-plus years of conflict and more so from almost 50 years of Israeli occupation.

For many years the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was existential and Palestinians refused to recognize Israel’s right to exist on any part of historic Palestine. That has not been the case over the past two decades. For many years Israelis also refused to recognize the existence of the Palestinian people and their rights to a state of their own.

This too has not been the case in the past two decades. Most Israelis and most Palestinians came to terms with the existence of the other and supported the two-state solution. The majority of Israelis and Palestinians, including a large part of their respective leaderships have accepted that the two-state solution is the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Most Palestinians were quite prepared to live in peace next to Israel, with freedom, dignity and independence.

Most Palestinians, including most Palestinian leaders (not including Hamas) still want to live normal lives where they can focus on what normal people all want – a decent life for themselves and their families. This is also what most Israelis want.

The failure of the peace process has not changed the logic and imperative of the two-state solution, it has only changed the belief on both sides that it is possible at this time. In the absence of hope that peace can be possible, radicalization has occurred on both sides of the conflict and the willingness and support for violence has gained legitimacy.

The Palestinian leadership, starting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas have demonstrated their understanding that organized armed resistance as experienced in the second intifada is counter-productive and self-destructive. They have kept the security coordination in place and have, according to Israeli security officials, continued to prevent attacks against Israel.

Several days ago, Abbas, interviewed in Arabic on Kuwaiti television, once again spoke against an armed intifada and promised that he would continue to do everything in his power to ensure that such use of force would not occur. He did not, however condemn the individual acts of terrorism taking place today and he knows that there is little that he can do to stop them.

He knows that without being able to offer his people any real chance of ending the Israeli occupation, his people believe that they have the right to resist occupation and Abbas recognizes that they believe it is legitimate for Israelis to feel the pain and anger that they feel. This cycle of pain on both sides can continue for a long time.

Israel will not be successful in stopping it by threatening more force or by using more force. Extracting more pain from Palestinians will only lead to the desire of Palestinians to extract more pain from Israelis.

Both sides need to get back to the table. The regional chaos and threats create more opportunities to expand the possibilities for reaching more stable outcomes from negotiations with more direct stakeholders at the table than previously. The solutions will not be through building more walls, but through figuring out how to build more cooperation.

Both sides will eventually get it, but until then, sadly, they will most likely continue to extract more pain. There are signs that some people are beginning to get it. Not surprisingly, those people are in the security apparatuses of both sides. They are the ones on the front lines and they, it seems, are the ones who most quickly understand the limitations of force.

This is what happened when the first intifada came to an end, which led to the peace process, and this is what will happen once again.

The author is the co-chairman of IPCRI, the Israel Palestine Creative Regional Initiatives, a columnist for The Jerusalem Post and the initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel for the release of Gilad Schalit. His book Freeing Gilad: the Secret Back Channel has been published by Kinneret Zmora Bitan in Hebrew and as The Negotiator: Freeing Gilad Schalit from Hamas by The Toby Press.

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