By David Halperin
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday May 5, 2003
Editorial Note: This guest column is the last segment in a series of commentaries highlighting the experiences of a UA student currently on an international exchange in Israel.
After four months in Tel Aviv, I've arrived at the conclusion that peace here is impossible · but cooperation is inevitable.
Let me explain: Put the road map aside for a moment. As long as there is a state of Israel, there will be radical extremists determined to throw the Jews into the sea, and as long as there is a Palestinian state, there will be radical extremists ready to throw the Palestinians across the Jordan River.
Therefore, two things are certain: There will always be violence, and there will be a Palestinian state.
Again, let me explain, keep the road map aside for a second. "Three new realities will be produced due to the war in Iraq," said Sherard Cowper-Coles, British ambassador to Israel, in a recent lecture at Tel Aviv University. "The U.S. is serious · the Arab-Islamic world needs to accept that Israel is not another colonial intrusion · (and) a Palestinian state will be a reality."
A Palestinian state is inevitable not because it is in the interests of Israel or the Palestinians, though it well may be, but rather because it is in the immediate interest of the most influential actor of this conflict, the United States. For decades, the United States has invested in helping to maintain the security of Israel as a democratic political ally, while at the same time reserving some of Israel's enemies in the Arab world as key economic allies and energy suppliers.
No matter what future successes may be revealed in the liberation of Iraq, the "Arab street" can point to the United States' action as a colonial invasion to secure oil fields and Israeli security, not Iraqi liberation. Therefore, the United States is in desperate need of helping to save the face of the Arab world, and showing that it is indeed serious about Middle East peace.
"I agree," said Rami Elhanan, 53, after I proposed to him the idea that a settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict may really lie in American hands. On September 4, 1997 at approximately
Two things are certain: There will always be violence, and there will be a Palestinian state.
3 p.m., two suicide bombers killed five people in Jerusalem's Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall, including Mr. Elhanan's 14-old daughter, Smadar.
He now is a member of the "Bereaved Families for Peace," a
support group that includes 200 Israeli and 150 Palestinian families who have lost loved ones in the current conflict and directly blame Israel's occupation of the disputed territories as the cause for this violence. Since its inception in 1994, it has been meeting regularly and has conducted such demonstrations as placing 1,200 coffins draped in Israeli and Palestinian flags in front of the United Nations to symbolize those killed as a result of the occupation.
"Occupation is like an amputated foot. If you take it off, you won't be complete, but you will still be alive," said Mr. Elhanan. But let's go back to those radical extremists; surely they're out for the destruction of the other, occupation or no occupation.
Now take out that road map. "Phase 1: Ending terror and violence, normalizing Palestinian life, and building Palestinian institutions, present to May 2003." Phase 1 is already much easier said than done. What will happen when the road map begins to be implemented and the eventual terror attack strikes Israel again? Israel will strike back, as it must, and we're back to Phase 1.
An immediate cessation of violence is unfortunately impossible. Creating a final settlement regarding secure borders, Jerusalem and the Palestinian refugees will be equally difficult. Therefore, can we really expect, "a final and comprehensive settlement of the Israel-Palestinian conflict by 2005"?
In a word: no. Nevertheless, the road map is a critical step.
"It may take 500 years but the two sides will (always) start negotiating at the same point: two states," said Mr. Elhanan. "We need to create an atmosphere of hope, give people something to lose."
Even if the road map is doomed to fail, it has the opportunity to mark a time in history where the world community began to make a serious effort in securing peace in the Middle East, and maybe for just a second, restore hope.
The idea is to one day create an environment in which the violent acts of a few will be truly rejected as senseless acts of violence by an overwhelming majority. "In order to cut an egg in half, it has to be boiled," said Mr. Elhanan, "We are at the boiling point."
David Halperin is a UA political science and Judaic studies senior studying at Tel Aviv University this semester.