A demonstrator steps on an Israeli flag during a rally marking al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day in Tehran.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The distance between here and peace and security There is nothing better a leader can do for their people than bring them peace and security. Peace and the security are the basis for prosperity, social welfare and justice, and a future of hope and promise. This is all the more true in a region which has not known peace and security and where security is usually measured by the size and the quantity of your weapons. The people of Israel and the people of Palestine have not known peace nor security. These are virtually foreign concepts to the peoples living between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River. There is no chance that only one of the two peoples will know peace and security while the other suffers threats of war and aggression, and has little or no security. Either both peoples will have peace and security or both peoples will not.
This is what is so bewildering about how little effort is being made to achieve peace and security. Both peoples want peace and security for themselves and logically they know that they can’t have it if the other side doesn’t also have it. The failed attempts of the past two decades have left both peoples with the very clear sense that peace is not possible, almost completely because you can’t trust the other side. They, the other side, most Israelis and Palestinians believe, have proven that they are not partners for peace and security. Both sides have fallen into the sense of helplessness and even despair regarding the most important aspect of improving their lives and the futures of their children.
Most people here and around the world look at the Israeli-Palestinian predicament and say it’s hopeless. There are no solutions any more. Peace is not possible. Security is limited in scope and durability and is measured in periods of a couple of years. Is this our destiny? Is this our fate that we are simply doomed to accept and make the best of? Do the failures of past attempts automatically pre-determine that all future attempts to make peace and achieve real security are doomed to fail? Is the lack of trust between the sides the ingredient that prevents now and for eternity that possibility of peace? I believe that the distance between where we are and peace and security is leadership. If we had real leaders, on both sides, who were really interested in doing what is ultimately best for their people and country, they would not accept that not having peace and security is a matter of fate and destiny. They would not be facing despair and hopelessness. They would not agree to pass the time in leadership positions without making every human effort possible to turn the dream of peace and security into a reality.
Achieving peace and security is not easy. No one ever said it was. It is hard work. Constant work that has to be done all the time, every day, without rest and without giving up. It starts by understanding that it is the most important responsibility and task of being the leader and continues with believing that it is possible. If the leaders begin their terms of service believing that achieving peace and security is not even possible, they will pass their years in office without even seriously trying. If this is the case (which it seems to be) they do not deserve to be leaders and they are not serving the best interests of their country and their people.
Neither Israelis nor Palestinians need leaders who spend more time vilifying the people and leaders on the other side than they spend on trying to reach understandings and agreements with them. That is not leadership; that is the yard of bullies flexing muscles and creating images called national pride, determination, strength, resilience and solidarity.
They are mostly false. We find all kinds of pleasant-sounding terminology to justify our own positions and delegitimize those of the other side. We escalate the language and spend time and resources proving to ourselves and to the world that the fault is solely on the other side. And with each negative step we take, our leaders convince us how right we are and how wrong they are. Not one iota of self-reflection, introspection and self-criticism is to be seen. It is so much easier to put the burden of failure and responsibility on the other side. That is not what we need, even though that is what we have, and we have ourselves to blame before blaming others. This is not leadership. These are not leaders.
The distance between where we are and achieving peace and security is leadership.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is complex, no doubt, but with more than two decades of experience, of failures, of negotiations, of searching for solutions, most rational people on both sides know what a possible agreement for peace and security looks like. We have been there and we have been close. The primary agreements are based on building the partnership, creating and sustaining the dedication to work together to find the solutions. It cannot be alone. There is no unilateral peace and security.
Peace and security can only be achieved together. It cannot be done from the outside.
It cannot be imposed. It cannot be done when one side wins and the other loses. It can only be done by working together to maximize the interests and needs of both sides. Israel will not have peace and security if Palestine does not have it. Palestine will not have peace and security if Israel does not have it. There will be no war won against incitement, racism and fostering a culture of hate if it not waged on both sides, together. We don’t need anyone to tell us what do to other than ourselves.
We need that leadership. We don’t have it.
If the leaders will not serve their people and their country by spending the overwhelming amount of their time and abilities to work for achieving peace and security, then let them move out of the way for others who will. Peace and security for Israel and Palestine is only impossible when we have leaders who don’t do what they must do and these are not leaders and they do not demonstrate leadership, and the distance between where we are now and achieving peace and security is leadership.
The author is 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 in English as The Negotiator: Freeing Gilad Schalit from Hamas by The Toby Press.