Judgement Day – The Middle East’ It must be peace without victory. Only a peace between equals can last: only apeace, the very principle of which is equality, and a common participation in a commonbenefit. ‘ ( Tiger, 1990, 418)The Holy land of Israel has witnessed the birth of Judaism and Islam. Israel has alsosuffered the wrath of a long and bloody history of conflict between the followers of thesereligions. The hostility has spanned from the early ages to modern day. The bloodshed was duemainly to religious disputes and land. For many Jews, Israel was the realization of a promisemade to them by God; that after centuries of suffering at the hands of anti-semetists, they wouldreturn to this ‘ promise land ‘. The Palestinian Arabs were outraged, as they felt threatened by theJewish immigration to what they thought was their own land which they have occupied forcenturies. Palestinians countered the Jews claim to the land of Israel with one of their own. TheUnited Nations granted the displaced Jews Israel, this ignited the bloody conflict between thetwo. Jews and Palestinians have continually fought over the land of Israel, in order to stake aclaim to it and call it their home. The religious differences between both are marginal. Thereancestors once lived together as one, and now this forgotten era has returned and is now at hand.The past is now disputed in the present, and the present will no doubt dictate the future. Palestine and Israel have similar paths, though 50 years apart. In order to avoid furtherbloodshed, Israel must grant the displaced Palestinians land for settlement, just as the UNgranted land for the displaced Jews after World War II. ‘ History is little more than the register of the crimes, follies and misfortunes ofmankind ‘ ( Webster, 1987, 128). If this quote describes the history of Arab – Israeli relationswell, then peace can be achieved. If on the other hand, history is declined to repeat itself as it isoften quoted, peace between the peoples will never be achieved. Or if history is seen as only thepast and cannot affect the future, then anything is possible. The history of Israeli – Arab conflictstems from the UN proposal in 1948 to create separate states for the Jewish and Arabs. Israel wasborn through this proclamation. This re-birth of a Jewish state prompted outrage from the Arabworld and fighting ensued. From wars with the Arabs in 1948-49, 1956, 1967, 1973 and 1982,Israel emerged with about 50 percent more land than had been originally allotted under the UNplan ( see figure 1.1 and 1.2). This ‘new’ land included the Sinai Peninsula formally Egypt, GolanHeights formally Syria, all of the Galilee, the coast, a reduced Gaza Strip formally Egypt, all ofNegev, and Northwestern Jerusalem. This ‘ acquired’ land forced an exodus of Palestinian Arabsto neighboring Arab countries approximately 726,000 (Omran, 1993, 24). The Palestinians are defined as the people who lived in the territory of Palestine beforethe creation of Israel. Palestine was placed under British colonial rule by the League of Nationsafter W.W.I, this lasted from 1922 to 1948. Palestinians consist mainly of Muslims and speakArabic. It’s population increased rapidly following W.W.II to roughly 6 million today. About 2.5million Palestinians live within the boundaries of the former state of Palestine, which is nowIsrael and the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza. Some have Israeli citizenship ifthey were in Israel at the time it was proclaimed. Over 1.5 million of Palestinians reside inJordan and represent half its population with full citizenship (Omran, 1993, 28). Many otherslive in nearby Syria and Lebanon and the rest of the Middle East. The plight of the Palestinianssince W.W.II is a story of continued dispersion and displacement. This displacement was due tothe establishment of Israel and Arab-Israel conflicts. This dispersion was caused by the lack of aunified voice for the Palestinians, until the Arab League in 1974 recognized the PalestineLiberation Organization ( PLO ) as the sole spokesman for the Palestinians. The PLO is the umbrella political organization which represents the world’s estimated4.5 million Palestinians. It was formed in 1964 to centralize the leadership of variousPalestinian groups that previously operated as clan resistance groups. It came into prominenceafter the Six Day War in 1967. The movement is dedicated to the creation of ‘democratic andsecular’ Palestinian state, and its charter at the time included specifically for the elimination ofIsrael. In 1969, Yassir Arafat leader of the largest Palestinian group al – Fatah was named as chairmanof the PLO. The PLO was accepted as the sole representative of the Palestinians in 1974. ThePLO the was to be the voice of the Palestinians. The PLO wanted the world to hear that thePalestinians have been oppressed, ridiculed and abruptly forced off the land they called homefor centuries by the Jews. They expressed their anger and hostility in the form of terrorism,because according to the PLO it was the only way to get the world’s attention ( Globe&Mail,1993, 1). Years later the world finally did and pressured Israel into negotiating peace with thePLO to stop the terrorism and grant the displaced Palestinians land for settlement.’ If we are to live together in peace, we must come to know each other better ‘ (Webster,1987, 183). On September 13, 1993 the ‘unthinkable’ happened, according to Former Secretaryof State Henry Kissinger. PLO leader Yassir Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabinshook hands and agreed to peace. The Israeli – PLO accord as it is called was to exchange landfor peace. In the accord it outlined a five-year, interim period of autonomy for Palestinians in theWest Bank and Gaza Strip. It also states an accelerated timetable for full Israeli militarywithdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank town on Jericho. This acceleration is calledthe ‘ Gaza and Jericho first ‘ label (see figure 2.1). Within the nine months of the deal being signedthere would be an election of the Palestinian self-government Authority. This authority knownas the Council will conduct affairs for a five-year period until a permanent settlement is reached.The election was ultimately won handily by Yassir Arafat. The Council’s jurisdiction wouldcover all the territory captured by Israel in the 1967 War, except Jewish settlements, militarylocations and international borders. Israel promised to pull their troops out of the Palestinianarea, where the new Palestinian police would then provide security. Within the 1993 accord,about 800,000 refugees who were displaced since 1948 would be allowed to return ( Facts onFile, 1995, 2-3). The accord did not put to rest all the disagreements with Palestine and Israel. Still unresolved is the declaration of Palestine as a state and the question of who calls Jerusalemtheir capital. Palestine demands Jerusalem be the capital of their state. In 1995, the PLO andIsrael reached an agreement on the second stage of Palestinian self-rule and Military withdrawalfrom Palestinian villages and towns ( see figure 2.2 ). This second stage of the process furtherestablished Palestine as a state, though not yet fully recognized. This accord also recognizedboth Rabin and Arafats as heroes, though many would disagree. In 1995 when the second stage was negotiated Clinton hailed the progress on Palestinianself-rule and reminded the world that much difficult work still lay ahead. Rabin noting that thelast 2 years of the peace process has been unimaginable and that now terrorism and extremismare the common enemies of both Palestinians and Israelis. Arafat reiterated this statements thatthe killing of innocent people must end, but warned that Jerusalem would be a ‘fundamentalissue’ in future talks. Not all reactions were positive, some regarded the peace process as wrongand unjustified. Many Arabs and Palestinians believe consorting with the Jews and negotiatingfor land which was rightfully ours is traitorous. Many Jews believe even talking to the onceoutlawed terrorist group PLO is spelling the doom for Israel, after all it was in the charter. At the time,Opposition Likud leader Benji Netanyahu pleaded that the accord is irresponsible and timid andwas hurried in order to please the international public. He went almost as far to say he wouldscrap the entire accord if elected. Binyamin Begin son of former PM Menachem Begincondemned the accord as a ‘tragedy’. Former PM Yitzhak Shamir said that the Rabin ledGovernment ‘mistakenly envisioned peace as the handing over of land to foreigners and forcingJews into the ghetto’. Not only politicians have voiced their opposition publicly, Matti Coen aright wing army reservist said that ‘ settlers have already formed vigilant groups to provideprotection if the soldiers leave . They will take matters into their own hands to protect Jewishinterest’. ( Facts on File, Sept.1995, 709-710). The accord and its reactions foreshadowed whatwas to come and deeply alter the process of peace indefinitely. On November 4th, 1995 a shot rang out that has altered the path for peace ever since. Alone assassin Yigel Amir a Jewish extremist shot Rabin dead moments after Rabin had sang asong about peace. Many thought the death of Rabin meant the death of peace between Israel andPalestine. The elections in May of 1996 was the Judgment Day for the peace process. At oddswere Likud leader Benji Netanyahu who ran under the slogan ” Making a Secure Peace ” andPM Labour leader Shimon Peres. In the end Israel chose Netanyahu ” secure peace “. Netanyahu during and after his election vowed to re-establish Israel’s security centered stance in
relations with its Arab nations. This vow threatened to derail the peace process. Shimon Peresloss in the election was attributed to what Rabin called the common enemy, terrorism. Numeroussuicide bombings frightened Jews from carrying out peace. Arafat launched crackdowns onterrorism and put added pressure on terrorist groups like Hamas, but to no avail the electoratestill chose the ” secure peace “. Arafat appeared glum and disillusioned days after the election,but exclaimed that the peace process must go through. This reaction was replayed by numerousinternational leaders such as PM Chretien and President Clinton. PM Benjamin Netanyahu weeks after the election began to soften his stance on thepeace process. During the election Netanyahu promised the continuation of Israeli sovereigntyover the West Bank, Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. The PLO and left wingIsraelis were scared that with this attitude the peace process would sputter and die. Netanyahurecognizing that he had only won by less than 1% noted the Israel has deep rifts within itssociety on this issue. He said that ‘ the most important peace that must be made must be thepeace made within Israel ‘. Netanyahu pleaded for National Unity above all else. According tothe peace accord Netanyahu is under obligation to withdraw Israeli military from Hebron, theonly Palestinian state still under control of Israeli army. During the election Netanyahuadamantly ruled out a Hebron withdrawal as of today because of pressure he is ‘ studying theissue’ before he makes up his mind (Facts on File, June 1996, 389-390). The world who hadonce imagined there would finally be peace in the Middle East were dismayed at the attitude ofthe new Israeli PM. His attitude was a throwback from the days when the animosities betweenJews and Palestinians were at their peak. During Netanyahu’s visit with Clinton in mid-July,Clinton admitted that the once promising peace process is under a ‘ period of adjustment’.Clinton pledged to stand by the new Right-wing Government and help seek their own way tofind peace. Clinton was visibly disappointed. The PM repeated his hard line stance insistingIsrael would not negotiate peace until the Palestinians and other Arab countries abandon the useof terrorism. Clinton first pleaded that the PM would sit down with Arafat to discuss furtherplans, the PM merely stated he ‘ may seem him at one point ‘. The second wish of Clinton wasthat if Israel would relax on economic blockades on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Netanyahureplied he would until ‘ security considerations would allow it’. The third wish was the proposedwithdraw of troops from Hebron, Netanyahu said his obligation was ‘ to ensure safety of itsJewish inhabitants ‘. The fourth was the most sensitive. Clinton urged Netanyahu to trade landcaptured in wars for peace in that region. Netanyahu adamantly replied ‘ Does fairness requirethat I yield 100 per cent and the Arab side yield zero? ‘ ( Tor.Star, July 1996, A1,A4 ). Withthe peace process stalled as of today the future is not clear, the path not chosen and the outcomeunknown. The future of Israel and the statehood of Palestine are at crossroads where together ifthey can find common ground they will be able to survive peacefully, if not the future is bleak. The future of the peace process and for that sake the future of Israel and Palestine itselfhinders on the continuation of the peace process. The autonomy of Palestine and the withdrawalof troops was the beginning even though their were violent protests, but opposition always comeswith change. To fully achieve peace the process must continue and definitely go beyond. Israelmust continue to withdraw troops from Palestine states and allow peacefully the reintegration ofthe Palestinian people into existing Jewish settlements. The new PM Netanyahu wishes to haltthe process and protect Jewish interest and people, then carefully proceed with the peace talks. With this stance on the issue if throws away everything that has been gained peace wise betweenthe Arabs and Jews. PM Benji Netanyahu must realize that the land occupied, forced manyPalestinians displaced. He must remember that his ancestors were once displaced and almostannihilated and his ancestors knew the importance of having their own home to inhabit. The PMmust use what history has taught not only him but the rest of the world and assist heartily inre-establishing a Palestinian State. Israel must be willing to negotiate a compromise thatJerusalem can be the capital of both Israel and Palestine since it is the holy sites of both religionsand peoples. Both sides under the agreement hopefully to be reached should trade politicalprisoners to be either released or incarcerated on their own side. This would ensure the personalsafety of the prisoners and by exchanging prisoners this would be a sign of ‘good will’ towardseverlasting peace. If Benjamin Netanyahu is serious about protecting the Jewish people he mustbe willing to let go to the paranoia feeling that if Israel gives a little, the foreigner will take a lot.To achieve full peace Israel must accept Palestine as a state or nation and be willing topeacefully try to succeed in co-existence with the once felt enemy. There will be bombs andterrorist attacks on both sides if these two interact, but they are a small minority and if the Jewsand Arabs become scared and outraged at these foolish attacks and disrupt the healthyco-existence, then the terrorists would have won. Jews and Palestinians must continue to worktogether and live to be with one another and continue to do so in spite of the violent opposition,then eventually full peace will be achieved and Rabin’s death would not be in vain. All the Palestinians ask for is as a land to call home. They were displaced after thecreation of Israel and the ensuing wars, that were fought to establish a Palestinian State withinthe land of Israel. For decades, the Palestinians have searched for an identity and new land tosecure a healthy future, but have failed. Their failure is not due to the PLO or terrorist attacks, itis because their history and culture is deeply rooted in Israel. The Palestinians recognize thisand have attempted to integrate themselves in the occupied lands of Israel as noted in the 1993peace accord, but were faced with harsh prejudice. The Jewish settlers were outraged as they feltthreatened by the re – immigration of the Palestinians to what they thought was their own land. This attitude was reminiscent of the 1940’s when the Jewish immigrated into the now occupiedterritories. In this case, the roles are reversed but the issue is still the same, who calls the land ofIsrael home? It would be logical to conclude that both could call Israel home, but extremist onboth sides condemn that action and now that an extremist is in power in Israel, peace seems to bea distant memory. If PM Netanyahu continues on his hard line stance as many outside observers believewill happen, he will be the cause of a major holy war. The new PM has insisted that the highestpriority must be to protect the Jewish people, but is not peace the most absolute security? He hasthe backing of ultra-orthodox, right winged Jews, the same group who assassinated Rabin. ThePM stance has outraged not only Palestinians but other Jews, who are bent on securing peace. These Jews who are sympathetic to the Palestinians, recognize that they have been oppressed anddisplaced as they were at the hands of the Nazis. This feeling is growing among Jews in Israeland in the rest of the world. The conflict now in the Middle East has turned away from Jewsagainst Palestinians, to those who want peace against those who do not.Douglas McArthur once wrote:’ Last but by no means least – moral courage, the courage of one’s convictions, the courage to seethings through. The world is in a constant conspiracy against the brave. It’s the age-old struggle- the roar of the crowd on one side and the voice of your conscience on the other’ ( Webster,1987, 59 ). Courage that is what is needed to achieve peace in the Middle East. The courage to followthrough with peace in spite of danger, in spite of religious principle, in spite of electorateplatforms. Peace must be achieved in order for Israel and Palestine to survive. Israel must grantthe displaced Palestinians its own land for settlement, just as the UN granted the displacedIsraelis land for settlement after W.W.II. Once Palestine has achieved it own state and Jews andArabs co-exist peacefully. Peace because of courage, courage because of insistence, insistencebecause of two men’s dream as they shook hands on the White House lawn. One chief Palestiniannegotiator was once quoted as saying ‘ Unless a miracle happens, the agreement between us willcollapse ‘ (Globe&Mail, 1993, 1). A miracle must happen, it should happen and will happenbecause the two have gone too far already to abruptly stop. Peace at all costs. BIBLIOGRAPHYNewspapers- ” Paper Pact Makes For Cold Reality “. Christian Science Monitor, Wednesday September15th 1993: page 3. – ” Five Years Later, Uneasy Stability in Middle East “. Chronicle – Herald, Thursday May 5th,1994: page 1- ” History Signing Brings Down Wall “. Globe & Mail, Tuesday September 14 1993: front page- ” Clinton Fails to Sway Israeli PM “. Toronto Star, Wednesday July 10, 1996: page 1 and 4- ” Jericho Test of Palestine Self-Rule “. Toronto Star, September 5, 1993 : pages 1 and 2-Facts on File, Volume 55, No. 2861, September 28, 1995-Facts on File, Volume 55, No. 2863, October 12, 1995-Facts on File, Volume 56, No. 2895, May 30, 1996-Facts on File, Volume 56, No. 2896, June 6, 1996Books- Omran, Abdel R. The Middle East Population Puzzle. Washington: Population ReferenceBureau Inc., 1993. – Tiger Books Concise Dictionary of Quotations. Slovenia: Geddes & Grosset Ltd., 1993. – Webster Library of Practical Information. New York: Career Institute., 1987.