Friday, 10 December 2010

The Arab - Israeli Talks: Politics Does Not Achieve Peace. The Individual Does.

Charlotte de Wynter
"Throughout history, fairly arbitrary lines drawn on maps have determined who prospers and who needs, who eats and who starves, who attacks and who is attacked, who lives long and who dies young. Oh, we have been slaves to those lines for so long..."
- Gavin de Becker 

Noble ideas of justice, controversial questions on settlements and the Palestinian right of return: topics being thrown to and fro by four men under the veneer of eloquent and articulated language. In the comfort of the beautiful Sharm el Sheikh, under the security of Egyptian and Israeli forces, under the wise auspices of the enlightened Hillary Clinton, four actors again try to entertain me with their humble words, naive strategy and impressive diplomatic skill. Is is this not the perfect setting for a typical Shakespearean tragedy, "Much ado to talk about nothing"? 

The curtains have been parted, the actors pruned and prepared with their masks, their words chosen, their role and ideas pre-defined not by rationale but by script, the applause starts and the audience will laugh, cry and jeer. Look a little closer and you may see that young Palestinian girl, Iman al Hams, hiding in the reflection of the eye of the gun just before her body was ripped apart by 50 bullets, or perhaps you'll manage to catch a glimpse of that Iron Wall - built in the name of democracy, peace and security which is actually a way of controlling the lives of Palestinians, reinforcing division, prejudice and discrimination. If you are lucky, under all the banter you'll here a snippet of those "legal" settlements in the West Bank where Jews live in their economic luxury whilst only a few hundred metres away Palestinians are struggling on a daily basis. Sorry, I forgot to mention this is the set for the peace talks. The set for change.

Change which will not be found in a couple of words strung together and named as a treaty, signed by leaders and applauded by the international community . Why? Because this treaty will not represent the views of the majority of Palestinians: those like Alia Shaheen who are more concerned with their worsening situation in Gaza, lack of electricity and inflation and especially because Abbas is a president who is out of his presidential term. So in whose name is he talking? In the name of Palestinians?

 What about the 1.5 million in Gaza where a majority support Hamas? Moreover for change to occur not only is it a gradual process but it involves the slow change of mentality, which comes with understanding. Understanding which has not been found because there is no communication. Communication which is hindered because of emotion: traumatic past events which block the rationale. Traumatic past events which have led to an asymmetry of power; a strong and a weak side, a strong disparity whose gap needs to be filled to achieve a balance of power. 

With this balance of power comes some basic level of mutual respect, and with this you go to the negotiating table. However, you do not go to negotiation table when you are not prepared to compromise nor when you do not intend to discuss with those who most disagree with you, it is easy getting someone who agrees with you to say they agree with you, after all whether it be Ireland or South Africa, countries would never have achieved any solution had they not begun talking to those whom they did not agree with. 

If Hamas is not ready to talk, if Israel is not ready to compromise with Jerusalem or the illegal settlements, then the time is not ripe for peace talks. The more failed peace talks we have, the more times I feel deja vu but also the stronger the feeling of distrust, disillusion and resentment by not only the Palestinians but by Israelis, and with this dangerous concoction of sentiments breeds resistance.

Resistance against each other. Resistance against communication. Ultimately, resistance against peace. What is needed is not more summits but wiser decision making, risks need to be taken in hope of peace. Israel, being the stronger player needs to reach out with olive branch - if it really wants peace it should show respect and one way to do so would be to not pass the "Jewish Loyalty" Oath, relax the checkpoints, have a stronger sense of morality in the IDF, permit for necessary products to enter Gaza such as cement and of course knock down that Iron Wall built in the name of everything immoral and wrong in this world. 

Naturally this is a gradual process, gradual for definite change. In essence, by raising the standard of living in Palestine the Knesset would be weakening the resistance, especially Hamas. This is of course an obvious strategy which should have been employed by the Israelis should they want peace, but then again this begs the point that the Knesset don't want to appear before Israel. 

Then again in my eyes this isn't being weak but doing what is best for your country in the long run, peace between Palestine and Israel means a secure Israel, a lesser threat from Iran due to lower levels of support and an Israel which isn't always at risk, where after centuries of persecution the Jews could live in relative peace.

The decision is in quintessence that of Israel. It is the stronger player, with access to money and power. It is time for Israel to change tactics and to make decisions which shall define its history in the years to come, and as Obama put it, the politicians are indeed "all fathers, blessed with sons and daughters whose generation will judge them". 

Politicians need to start thinking of a sustainable future, in the sense that Israel cannot be surrounded by enemies forever, America can only so far protect them, a time will come when Israel will have to stand on her own and preferably without the nuclear missiles of the Arab peninsula aimed at her. Like Jamal Elshayyal claims, "What is needed is tangible changes on the ground coupled with brave political decisions to speak and listen to the real players and stakeholders in this conflict."

However the first step for change has yet to be taken, the olive branch has yet to be extended. Peace has yet to be made.

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