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Monday, 4 June, 2001, 07:25 GMT 08:25 UK
Are settlements the main obstacle to peace?

A US-led international commission has called for an "immediate and unconditional" end to months of violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

The commission's long-awaited report was unveiled in New York by former US Senator George Mitchell.

One of its central recommendations is for a total freeze on Jewish settlements in Palestinian areas - something already rejected by Israel.

Are settlements the main obstacle to resuming peace negotiations? Can a compromise ever be reached on settlements?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

The settlements are just a symbol of the continuous occupation of Palestine by Israel

Gergey Pasztor, Germany
The settlements are just a symbol of the continuous occupation of Palestine by Israel. Until Israel moves out of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, there will be no stop to attacks by extremists. Funny that the USA made such a big deal about defending Kuwait. What is wrong here? Why doesn't anybody want to help Palestine?
Gergey Pasztor, Germany

It is clear that the only chance of peace in Israel/ Palestine is for the world community to intervene, impose a settlement and enforce such a settlement with peace-keeping troops and sanctions as in the former Yugoslavia. The onus is on the UN to prevent another generation of innocent Israeli and Palestinian children from being indoctrinated into violence and falling victim to such violence.
Fergal Buckley, Ireland

Settlements are a classic demonstration of the influence of a right-wing Jewish element in Israeli society. The puritan attitude of this small group (only 10% of Jews are orthodox) is leading to the friction between those two sides who lived peacefully under Islamic rule for well over a thousand years.
S.K. Caan, UK

Settlements are little more than a drop in the ocean as far as obstacles are concerned. The problem is that whenever the West has involved itself with Palestine, it has caused bloodshed and widespread suffering. Look at the past; the Romans and how they treated the Jews, the crusaders and how they massacred civilians and finally the British and the Americans who are exerting their influence over this land hit by war and chaos.
Benyamin, Israel

Remove the key personalities here and we would undoubtedly have a very different process

Jay Schneider, USA
Nobody is to blame but the two actors in this crisis. Until they stop trying to "wrong-foot" one another and approach the table with integrity and a desire for peace instead of concealed daggers, hidden agendas and political ambitions, there will be no peace. The key figures in positions of leadership aren't fooling anyone and they are acting in ways that shock and bemuse - I have no idea how or why anyone in the US, the EU or the Arab League tolerates any of them, much less why their own people tolerate them. Remove the key personalities here and we would undoubtedly have a very different process, possibly even one that moves forward.
Jay Schneider, USA

Someone commented earlier, "Israel is a very small country which was created by the West and by force, against the will of the native owners of the land which is and always has been called Palestine." Arabs are not the native owners of Israel - the Jews are! Israel was not created by force, but by UN Resolution, in a democratic vote. The Arabs, who claim UN resolutions should be obeyed, defied this particular UN resolution, and waged a war on this tiny state, and I mean tiny. Third, the Roman Empire called Israel 'Palestine', after they exiled the rightful owners of the land - the Jews. This was to punish the Jews who fought for independence, and demanded the right to practice their belief in one god, against the pagan and decadent Romans!
Shirly M, Haifa, Israel

How can the World accept that there are a people called Palestinians and there is no country called Palestine? Stolen plots of land in the Palestinian territory (aka Settlements) were introduced by Israelis for two purposes: to hinder the liberation of Palestine and to humiliate the Palestinian people. I beg anyone who wishes to express an opinion on this to visit the Palestinian territories and to see the plots of land that the Jews have confiscated. They are placed in such a way as to prevent the liberation of Palestine. They block natural connections between cities and they occupy the best land. I agree that settlements are not the only issue hindering the peace process; for there are many other injustices that the Palestinians are suffering. Nevertheless, this issue has to be tackled first because their presence is a guarantee of eternal conflict in the Middle East.
Omar Khouri, Jordan

The notion of Jewish settlements being an obstacle to peace is silly

Joan Lisa, USA
The notion of Jewish settlements being an obstacle to peace is silly. There were no settlements when Israel became a nation, and not for 20 years after. And yet the collective Arab nations, including Arafat's PLO, warred on Israel during those 20 years. And what got lost in the shuffle was that there could have been a Palestine nation if the Arabs had not voted it down in 1947. The mistake is theirs alone that there is no Palestinian state. Israeli settlements are no excuse for turning down almost 100% of the West Bank and Gaza for a state last year at Camp David. The consensus has to be that - settlements or no settlements - the Palestinian leadership do not want a state. And Arafat has been confusingly not forthcoming as to why not.
Joan Lisa, USA

If the US and Europe stop being so hypocitical and start using the UN resolutions as the basis of dealing with both the Palestinians and Israelis alike, the situation in that region will definitely improve. For how long are the Palestinians going to be blamed for the misery that is imposed on them? Such international ignorance is leaving the Palestinians with few options.

When will the self-created world powers acknowledge that it is they who created this boiling pot?

Anne Cutts, Argentina
Those of us living outside the Middle East seem to have the habit of looking at the conflict as one looks at goldfish in a tank. If a different species is thrown into the tank and begins to eliminate those already there, do we watch and discuss who is right and who is wrong, feeding those we like and starving those we don't? When will the self-created world powers acknowledge that it is they who created this boiling pot, they who feed the conflict, and only they who can stop the systematic attack of an occupier on a powerless people?
Anne Cutts, Argentina

The solution to the Middle East crisis is simple. Both sides to abide by international law; the Geneva Convention; the UN Charter; and obey all UN resolutions. All civilised, non-rogue states should find these principals easy to follow. Unfortunately, one party in the Middle East steadfastly, and openly, refuses to abide by any of these principals, and when the UN tries to act to force compliance, the USA vetoes the action. How long can these double-standards be allowed to continued?
Colin Withers, UK

There are so many multi-cultural societies around the world, the largest majority of which live in harmony. What is the problem there? What the leaders decide is irrelevant to peace in the region. The rot lies in the reactionary, violent, emotionally unstable, thoughtless actions of both sides. While both sides claim to be hard done by for whatever reason, the inbred intense hatred and xenophobia of the adult population is seen in the conduct of their children. It is sad to see so many children whose boundless potential has apparently already been irreversibly restricted and stained by their role models.
Sean, Belgium

The Israeli government officials (e.g. Begin, Barak) have compromised themselves in an effort to gain votes and acceptance from the orthodox and ultra religious to the point where they compromised the stability for peace in the West Bank. Enough with the Jewish settlement building and confiscation of land. The ultra religious on both sides are responsible for the confrontation by not compromising.
Felice Douglas, USA

The only acceptable way towards a solution is the end of occupation and a return to 1967 borders. It took the world, including Israel, 50 years to have the Palestinians accept the reality of the existence of Israel. Now we find ourselves asked to accept the settlements etc, etc. What next?
Khalil Ansari, Palestine

I think both sides are ignoring a fundamental concept "respect for human life". They should put people first, step back and think for a second, what is this war all about? If they do not want their children, their wives, brothers and sisters to be killed, then the leaders should give the same respect to other human lives. Believe me, if these leaders wake up one day to find their loved ones all killed, then they will think about peace. But because other people are being killed, they do not feel the pain of losing a son, wife, mother etc. They should think about the people they govern and not their egos and masculine images.

Settlements are an issue that can only be solved by negotiations

Daniel, USA
Settlements are an issue, but one that can only be solved by negotiations. When the latest round of fighting broke out, it was not because of settlements or because of Ariel Sharon's visit to the Noble Sanctuary (he never even set foot in the Muslim temple, contrary to official Palestinian misinformation). The fighting started because Yasser Arafat was not willing to accept an Israeli offer that the world thought fair - to build a real, viable state on virtually all of the West Bank and Gaza. Why not? Because he was not ready to divide his constituency through compromise and become a state builder...
Daniel, USA

Israel is a very small country which was created by the West and by force, against the will of the native owners of the land which is and always been called Palestine. They live in the heart of the Arab and Islamic world. For Israel to continue to function they will either have to make peace with the rest of the Arabic and Islamic region or forever be the enemy for generations to come. In its small, bloody history, it didn't achieve anything but misery and pain to every Jew from around the world that thought they finally had a homeland. I strongly believe that time has never been and will never be on their side as long as they maintain their current path. Violence will only breed violence and the tide of power in that region will eventually turn - it might be too late then.
Mike, Arizona, USA

There are lots of obstacles in the Palestinian issue, settlement is only one of them. In my opinion American-led peace negotiation cannot be maintained any more. A more comprehensive commission should be established according to international law. Moreover, Palestine and Israel have to sit at the peace table with equal rights and conditions.
Huseyin, Turkey, Istanbul

Most of us ignore the Palestinian point of view

Majed Alyahya, Illinois, USA
Violence breeds violence, no question about it. But what most of us see here in Western countries, is the Israeli point of view regarding the situation. Most of us ignore the Palestinian point of view. We'd call them "terrorists" when they shell a settlement, but we'd never blame the Israelis for their "shoot-to-kill" policy when their well armed and well protected army confronts Palestinian youths and children. I agree that continuing building "settlements", and expanding the existing ones, significantly fuel the fire. Both practices should be stopped. And, if these "settlements" were built on Israeli soil to start with, would they be described as such?
Majed Alyahya, Illinois, USA

The only obstacle to peace is Yasser Arafat and his inability to stop his people's violence and return to the negotiating table. Pro- Palestinian supporters claim that the main obstacle is the settlements, Israelis claim that the fact that they cannot walk in their streets or drive on the roads is the main obstacle. These are all points that need to be negotiated and worked out. Mr. Arafat has to prove that he is really interested in peace and try to find a fair and reasonable solution. Israelis do not walk into Arab towns and blow themselves up, they do not shoot Palestinians driving on their roads, and they do not send their young children to the front lines to gain media attention. No more games, Mr. Arafat - these tactics are only turning the world against you, as you show the inhumane side of the Palestinian people. If you are really interested in peace, you will stop blocking it and start negotiating.
Gregory, South Africa

Settlements in someone else's land are illegal and unjust. Arabs and Israelis differ culturally and religiously, therefore, they can't co-exist in same town. The only way to achieve peace is to stop settlements and give full independence to the West Bank and Gaza and have barbed wire borders. Arabs can't trust Jews . A wall similar to Germany's wall must be created to achieve lasting peace.
Marshall, USA

It takes some naivety and hypocrisy to argue that the settlements are the obstacle to peace

Tomer Schwartz, Israel (currently UK)
It takes some naivety and hypocrisy to argue that the settlements are the obstacle to peace. No mention of settlements was made by Chairman Arafat while rejecting the far-reaching proposals, put forward to him by Israel, and waging violence against her, arguing that, by (allegedly) accepting the right of Israel to exist, the Palestinians have exceeded the limit of concessions that they could have offered. The obstacle to peace is the one-sided and unbalanced media in the 'Western democratic world' that consistently and unfairly backs 22 Arab dictatorships in a war they wage against a small democracy that is struggling to survive.
Tomer Schwartz, Israel (currently - UK)

International laws are there for the protection of Israel as well as Palestine. If Israel does not respect the rule of law then she must not complain when rogue nations break international law as well.
Jean-Pierre Ducasse, Canada

Settlements, holy places, reprisals etc are immaterial. When you have occupation of one land by another people then you will always have violence. When this is against the will of the United Nations, international law and morals, but supported by the Jewish lobby in America, then NO progress will ever be made. Ultimately the Jews wish to annihilate the Palestinians. Stop sending both of them money and weapons and enforce international law on them both. Then sanction Britain for causing the problem in the first place and America for keeping it going for over 50 years.
Andy, Switzerland

Israelis are in danger of becoming the laughing stock of the media

Reza Hashemi, Denmark
Israelis are in danger of becoming the laughing stock of the media, when they increasingly resort to outlandish arguments to defend their settlement policy in the occupied territories. Yesterday I heard an Israeli woman, being interviewed on the BBC, comparing Sharon's actions against Palestinians to Churchill's fight against Nazi Germany. I've also heard Israelis say their actions in Gaza and the West Bank are no worse than what Britain has been doing in Northern Ireland in recent years. No wonder then that Palestinians can't get the Israelis to understand their reasonable demands.
Reza Hashemi, Denmark

Unbelievable that the world is suddenly focusing on the settlements as THE reason for the violence. As far as Arafat is concerned the whole of Israel is a settlement and his aim is not peace but more and more concession by Israel through terror. Camp David was his chance to prove himself as a partner for peace - he failed. Israelis voted for peace with Barak and all they received as an answer was violence. The world should understand that issues such as settlements are just another attempt by Arafat to legitimise his terror and nothing else. A sad truth but one that the Israelis had to wake up to and the world needs to too.
Caroline, Austria

We live in a world where right and wrong is determined by force alone

Jonathon Westley, Manchester, UK
I believe that the settlements issue is not the real obstacle to bringing peace in the Holy Land. We live in a world where right and wrong is determined by force alone. At the moment, Israel - backed by the US - is the powerhouse in the Middle East, and therefore they have the right to do as they please. Until their perceptions change, or until another country challenges this authority, there can never be a just solution to the Palestinian problem.
Jonathon Westley, Manchester, UK

Sickening: this is the word I use to describe the Palestinian situation. Israel must stop its settlement policy and stop preaching about the "rights" of the Palestinians while the latter are still under Jewish occupation. One would wonder whether people who constantly remind the rest of the world about the horrors of the holocaust really have the moral high ground to act as they do against the Palestinians, regardless of the reasons or justifications. After all, Palestinians were there first. Israel, shame on you!
NP, Costa Rica

Just as there are Arab towns in Israel, surely there can be Israeli settlements in Palestine. The settlements issue is the latest Palestinian excuse for continuing hostility (along with right of return and flag over Jerusalem, Sharon visit, Holy Jihad). Anything to avoid compromise and confuse cause with effect. Pity on them.
Paul, Australia

It is morally repulsive to claim that settlements and violence are equivalent

Jeff, USA
It is morally repulsive to claim that settlements and violence are equivalent. Logic and common sense tell us, no matter who you support, that violence must cease before negotiating details of a peace plan. Israel offered a cease-fire to the Palestinians. Within two days the Arabs resumed violence against the Israelis. This formula of settlement reduction in return for cessation of violence is simply a terrorist blackmail tactic. It is no less repugnant than hostages for money.
Jeff, USA

As a former supporter of Israel I feel shame, disgust and betrayal. I would have never supported the country if I knew that with my money they were building settlements on illegally occupied land.
RKB, Norway

The settlements might not be the main obstacle to peace and stability in the region but they are certainly a major source of the conflict. It is hard to imagine that the Israelis are talking about peace whilst never committing to the elements of peace.
Kolyaya, Mindanao, Philippines

The issue of Israeli settlements as an obstacle to peace is a red herring, for several reasons. 1) These settlements do not impinge or inhibit the development of Arab towns and villages and are built on either previously empty land or land legally purchased from previous Arabs landowners. This is extensively documented and expansion of settlement lands is subject to strict control by the Israeli legal system. 2) Palestinians leaders have from the beginning of the conflict claimed that Israel, in its entirety is illegal and that the right of return applies to the whole of Israel.

For Mr. Arafat, Tel-Aviv is also a settlement! Therefore the so-called settlement issue is at best a stepping stone in the Palestinian strategy. Indeed at the Camp David talks Mr. Arafat was offered at impressive list of settlements in return or peace but wholly rejected the idea. This clearly indicates that the settlements, while being an interesting media issue, are not the core of the problem.
Michael Firer, Israel

I think that the Mitchell report is the only platform right now that could help both sides to move to the right direction, and to stop expanding settlements or establishing new ones is one of Mitchell's recommendations. But the settlements are not the only obstacle to peace. Terrorism against Israel is another, and Israel has legitimate security interests.

As long as Israel ignores the settlement issue, and as long as the Palestinian authorities are unable or unwilling to stop terrorism, there will be no progress. But even if the settlements expand further, this would not be an irreversible trend. They are only one out of many issues. As more and more time is lost, a U-turn in Israel's settlement policy will become more difficult, but would still be possible.
Franz B, Germany

A 30 year cooling off period may then be needed

Doron Mason, Israel (previously England)
The most important issue in the area is the Palestinian Authority's educational system. Here a whole generation is being brought up on holy war, total negation of Israeli rights, and the importance of martyrdom. Control of the schools must be taken out of Arafat's hands. A 30 year cooling off period may then be needed. This has been the price of the Oslo accords.
Doron Mason, Israel (previously England)

I wonder what is the meaning of the word peace to people these days? Everyone is uttering "peace in the Middle East" and how can we achieve peace and so on. If peace means living under an occupation that does not know the meaning of humanity then who needs peace! I challenge any Westerner to visit what they call Israel today and then the West Bank and then decide who is the oppressor and who is the oppressed, who is the terrorist and who is the victim. The issue of settlements is only one of a long list of violations against humanity that Israel carries against the Palestinian people everyday.
Hani, USA

Amazing how Arafat has managed to defer world attention from his initiation of the Intifada to suddenly "the settlements" and you all seem to buy into it. Before the first Intifada the settlements were not a problem at all and in fact there was commerce and trade between Jewish and Arab-Palestinian residents of the territories. Israel is the only local source of income for the Palestinians.

Arafat has cut his own people off from work by his policies. What country in the world would willingly open the borders to workers who are now part of such a suspect "enemy"? And how sad. We know Palestinians and have worked with them. They live in very difficult conditions - but prior to all this made-up Intifada they had income and work and a hope for the future. Now Arafat has ruined that for them, and he has also squandered European funding. Settlements are not the issue here.
Michal, Israel

I agree with Chris/Israel. Until I met people who have lived in the horror of the West Bank, Gaza and Palestinian refugee camps and in Israel, I would not have imagined that the Israeli government could do what they continue to do.

The Palestinians want to be treated like human beings, have equal rights, be able to go to work and provide for their families and live a simple life. And, by the way, it wasn't just the Palestinian Authority that has misappropriated funds, the Israeli government has been withholding/controlling funds collected by different countries to assist in the Palestinian economy. Would you like someone doing that to you?
Carol Powell, USA

Israel claims that the violence would stop in one hour if the Palestinians stopped. But what does that mean? If bulldozers level your home and destroy the olive grove your family has tended for two hundred years, is that not violence? If soldiers, at gunpoint, stop you from harvesting your crop, and it rots in the fields, is that not violence ? If teenage settler gunmen loot and burn your store under the protection of watching soldiers, is that not violence? That is the violence of Israeli occupation, and it has been going on for 30 years.
Raquib Shamsad, UK

Unfortunately the settlements are but a small piece of a larger problem

Dmitriy, USA, formerly Russia
Unfortunately, the settlements are but a small piece of a larger problem and ultimately matter little in a big picture. This conflict will not end until one of the warring sides is either completely eliminated or exhausted to the point of ultimate weakness so that the winner takes over anyway. Until then there will be no peace in the Holy Land.
Dmitriy, USA, formerly Russia

The main cause of the current violence is misappropriated funds by a corrupt Palestinian authority that were supposed to be routed to the Palestinian people. These funds were to be used for food, shelter, resources... The Palestinian people would have been relieved of many of the stresses that disturb them today. Who knows what reason the Palestinian Authority has to pervert these funds. One wonders?!!
Gil, USA

It's wrong to compare Israeli treatment of Palestinians to Nazi treatment of Jews

Zak, Israel
It's wrong to compare, as some have done, Israeli treatment of Palestinians to Nazi treatment of Jews. Yes, there is racism in Israeli society, but Israeli Arabs have full rights under Israeli law. They have the right to vote, and they receive a full pension when they retire. There are still many social inequalities that must be addressed in the country, but given the hostile nature of her neighbours, and the torn loyalties of the Israeli Arab communities, tensions exist.

To accuse Israel of "not learning from its history" is not fair. Israel's retaliations are harsh, but they are aimed at weakening the people attacking its citizens. The suffering of innocent Palestinians is due to the roadblocks, which have stopped Palestinian workers from entering Israel. Israel's economy needs these workers, but the risk of a suicide bombing is much greater when the barriers are down. The Nazis used gas to exterminate human beings because of what they were. Israel is fighting a war, it is not exterminating a people.
Zak, Israel

My support for Israel was steadfast until Ariel Sharon supervised the mass murder of hundreds of refugees in Sabra/Shatela camps, Lebanon. Israel wants to hold on to land based on a 2000-year-old claim. Israel must withdraw under international law to its internationally recognized borders, leaving its settlements intact as reparation. The world economy will be plunged into recession if not. Here in the US our government has a different set of standards from the rest of us. Serbian land claims were 500 years old, and illegal as well. The Arab armies were all defeated. What's left is the land and the Palestinians.
Michael Maggetti, USA

The main obstacle to peace is not only the existence of settlements on occupied land but also Israel's occupation of Palestine and its aggressive and racist policies toward the Palestinians.
Ahmad Talohi, USA

It is time for organisations whom both sides trust to play a more active role

Ken Bhandary, USA
As long as the US plays the leading role in brokering any peace settlement, it is doomed to fail. It is because the US has always favoured Israel more than the Arabs and it is viewed with suspicion and distrust by the Islamic world in general and the Arabs in particular. No matter how sincere the intentions are, it will always be met with strong opposition. It is time for organisations/nations like the European Union, India and Argentina, whom both sides trust to play a more active role in realising a peaceful settlement.
Ken Bhandary, USA

The violence is about the Arab and Muslim desire to destroy Israel. That is all it is about. Not settlements, not Sharon's visit to the Jewish Holy Mount, not anything else. When Israel was in South Lebanon, the Arabs said all the violence was because of Israel's occupation. Israel left, the violence got worse.
TD, Australia

It's all very well to spout platitudes about stopping the violence (as if it was so easy) and "peaceful co-existence"; I can't help wondering how many of these contributors have been summarily evicted from their homes and land without justification or even so much as a moment's notice. How many have had friends and relatives bombed, shot to death or flattened by a tank? Of course, neither side is free from blame - but, as the most powerful party (as testified to by the overwhelmingly greater Palestinian death toll) Israel must hold the greater responsibility.

The fact is that there are a significant number of young Palestinians who are willing to blow themselves up in order to kill as many Israelis as possible. Until Israel truly understands this and addresses the reasons behind it, there can never be peace.
Adam, UK

I am beginning to doubt the nation's commitment to peace

Gilbert Thierry Houalla, UK
I am and always have been a supporter of Israel. However, I have to say that I am beginning to doubt the nation's commitment to peace. Surely they must see the sense in stopping building new settlements and expanding existing ones. If Israel persists in defying world opinion, they will lose all their traditional allies including, dare I say, America. Senator Mitchell has proved himself when dealing with the Northern Irish issue to be a man of integrity, honour, and social justice. If the Palestinians found it possible to accept all his recommendations, why could not Israel?
Gilbert Thierry Houalla, UK

No-one can condone the violence on both sides. However, if Israel continues to allow the settlements to grow, the world can only expect it to escalate even further.
Rod McEwen, Scotland

Settlements are not the real problem, nor international duplicity, terrorism or water supplies. It is the age-old problem of the bloated sense of self importance which always seems to infect anyone who finds themselves 'representing' their country. The will of the very few hardliners is dragging the fervent desire for peaceful coexistence harboured by the vast majority of Palestinians and Israelis towards oblivion. International conflicts have always been about the egos and ideologies of the ruling class, not the needs of their citizens.
Sam, UK

Yes the settlements are the main obstacle to peace. The declaration of a willingness to abandon them would transform the situation. Such a declaration would mean that Israel would have accepted the need to negotiate without at the same time using the settlements as a means of maintaining complete military domination of the Palestinian territories.
David Pavett, UK

Settlements are an issue, but not the only one

Marten King, Portland, OR, USA
Settlements are an issue, but not the only one. If the Palestinians had decent leadership Arafat would today be leading a Palestinian state, I am convinced. No question, Israel is guilty of a multitude of sins. But no matter what one might think of their tactics against the Palestinians, the existence of the state of Israel is not in question.
Marten King, Portland, OR, USA

The conflict between Israel and Palestinians can be likened to that between a bully and a brat. Israel with its highhanded aggression and the Palestinians with their sneaky retaliation. It's time both parties behaved like adults, showed restraint and worked towards a compromise. Fingerpointing and blame-placing will not lead anywhere. Instead move forward and try to make this world a better place for your children.
Yul, India

The only time two fanatical parties so polarised in their views will reach a compromise is when they both become so sick and weary of the fighting and the blood that they realise that life is more important than principle. I fear we will have to see an awful lot more blood spilt before the Israeli and Palestinian fanatics grow weary.
Graeme, England

Both sides are to blame. Israel is violating international law in its treatment of the Palestinians. The settlements must go and the right of return must be negotiated. On the other hand, the Palestinians and the Arab states must learn to coexist with the state of Israel.
Phil Miller, USA

We in the US don't even know what role the settlements are playing. I wonder why that is?
Holden, USA

Double standards and hypocrisy by the international community is the most important problem

George, Canada
Settlements are a major problem but double standards and hypocrisy by the international community is the most important problem. Israel invaded and occupied the lands of neighbouring countries, no international coalition was formed to expel its forces. Israeli fighter bombers and helicopter gun ships bombarded civilian populations, no "No-Fly Zones" were imposed by the US and the UK. Israel does not implement security council and UN resolutions, no sanctions are imposed on it by the international community! The word Israel starts with an "I" and so is the word "Iraq" why is their treatment by the international community is diametrically opposite?
George, Canada

One common mistake made by many is to assume that no matter what, Israel's military superiority will always prevail. This is true but in the next decade or so, it is self-evident that if the conflict is not properly settled, many more countries in the region will be compelled to go nuclear and, indeed, will have nuclear bombs (refer to the case of Pakistan, India, North Korea, France or even Israel). At this point, with all its military superiority, Israel will be forced to tune down its bullying behaviour.

So, the real options are either an acceptable peace now or a prolonged cold war climate in the region. I do believe that peace now is the more sensible option because what is the point for Israel to risk its higher bargaining power and for the Palestinians to lose so many lives when peace is the inevitable outcome?
Billy, Boston, USA

The settlements are not an obstacle to peace - if the Palestinians wanted peace, as they piously claim, they could have it tomorrow. The Israelis did not start the violence, and are simply defending themselves in the best way possible under the circumstances. The settlements are not an obstacle to peace - they are an excuse. The Palestinians do not only want the dismantling of the settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, but the dismantling of all the cities in the pre-1967 borders as well - they consider the existence of Israel to be an illegal settlement, and have said so many times.

They are using the settlement issue as an excuse for international pressure, just as they tried using putting their children in the line of fire and hiding behind them, as a pawn for international pressure. The Palestinians are simply using every excuse they can to line up international pressure, and if they don't succeed with the use of the settlements, they will try something else. If the Palestinians wanted peace, they would sit down and peacefully negotiate, and make the difficult compromises.

If the Palestinians and the Israelis approach this days news the way this discussion group has, there will be no peace. Forget about the issues that started this latest bout of violence. Stop the violence and then address the issues. It's simple and that's the key. The solution is not going to be found quickly, but the solution will never be found as long as the violence continues.
Mike, USA

We must use lessons from our past, to avoid future suffering. Winds of favourable change are blowing all over the world: the time of a concerted peace initiative has come. Israel should stop looking at furthering settlements as a show of strength/determination. They can use its stoppage to convey a message of reconciliation.
Somnath Roy, India

The settlements are really a symptom rather than a cause of the conflict. Closing them down will certainly advance what little hope of peace there is, but Israel well knows that, ultimately, they must withdraw to pre-1967 borders, and address the issues of the refugees and water supplies if they want their country to be viable in the future. The alternative for Israel is perpetual conflict and suffering, which surely the Jewish people must be tired of, given their tragic history. One day the US will not be as ready to leap to Israel's defence, if they have not resolved these matters by that time, their eventual demise is assured (that or they will consign the region to nuclear oblivion)
Idris, UK

I think that this report is not entirely correct at all. The main obstacle to peace is the Palestinian authority backing terrorist groups such as Hamas who carried out last week's terrorist bomb in Netanya. If the PLO would start to control its people all of this could end very soon.
Joel, Australia

Settlements are undoubtedly an obstacle to peace negotiations, however, the double standards of the United States' is the main obstacle. I don't quiet understand how any thinking man would believe that the U.S. would want to mediate any peace and want to offer the Palestinians peace when it is the US that funds Israeli military projects and provides them with the military equipment used against the Palestinians. A compromise on settlements will never be reached!
Mona, Canada

Yes indeed the settlements are a problem, but let's first address a problem of Palestinian violence and suicide bombers operating out of their territory, because it is that terrorism which contributes to the rising death toll and not the presence of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza.
Stan, USA

Why is the point of all these troubles always missed? Until the problems and injustices are really dealt with and answered reasonably, how can we have peace? Perhaps the only answer would be something like the truth and reconciliation tribunals set up in South Africa. There is a problem, there is discrimination, and I defy anyone to say that having to live as people do in the West Bank and have done for years, is ok. Is it ok not to have any control over your own water supply, your own electricity supply, access to your workplace?

Having met people who live, unable to work, having to draw water from wells, having to make charcoal to try to buy flour and having to provide everything else by their own ingenuity, I wonder what century we are living in! It is so easy to blame the Palestinian authoritities when you don't know what circumstances they have to bear. When all which is vital to your citizens and your economy is controlled by a neighbouring unfriendly state, do you not think that unrest is inevitable?
Chris, Israel

It is like giving Basildon and saying that it is London

Duncan H, England
In response to JL, the Palestinians were not offered Jerusalem. They were offered some land far to the east of the city, with the promise that the Israelis would re-define the boundaries of the city to include the new land. It is like giving Basildon and saying that it is London. The truth is that Israel operates a system of apartheid in the occupied territories - where you have a vote only if you are Jewish. This injustice is the problem.
Duncan H, England

I am pretty amused by all this idiocy going around these discussions. First, Israel got all these territories by defending itself and winning against the war against the overwhelming Arab forces. Maybe we should ask Poland, Russia, etc. to give back their land to Germany that they took after World War II. Second, Sabra and Shatila was the work of Christian Lebanese and not the Israeli forces. Third, I would like to see how you all would react if somebody in your wonderful country will be blowing up school buses, malls, and shelling your houses on the level proportionate to that of Israel. Forth, I am still waiting to hear in the news something like: "in retaliation to Israeli attack on civilians" or see Israeli teenagers throwing stones at Palestinian soldiers with Israeli army hiding behind their backs.
Alex K, USA

The US government has jealously maintained its exclusive jurisdiction to mediate Middle East peace for over 20 years but has evidently failed dramatically in its self appointed mission. It is time for another major power such as the European Union to play the mediation role.
Ralph Sato, USA

The brutal occupation of the Palestinian people and the illegal building of settlements are the main obstacles to peace in the Middle East. The Western countries continue to tolerate (or in the case of the US actively support) the use of brute force by Israel in the occupied territories, something they will never accept in any other part of the world (unless of course they themselves are the occupiers). This blatant double standard is the primary obstacle to peace and justice in the Middle East.
Ramesh.K, Australia

A true compromise is one where neither party is happy

What I don't understand is why the Palestinians rejected Ehud Baraks offer - a true compromise is one where neither party is happy, and under his compromise, - painful as it would have been, Israel would have given up Jerusalem, a large number of the settlements would have been disbanded, and the Palestinians would have got a state of their own. If the Palestinian state had developed in a secular democratic way, they would have been able to achieve all their goals by future negotiation. As it stands, they have nothing, except a disillusioned nation on their doorstep.

I don't think the settlements are the main obstacle to peace in the Middle East, rather its the suicide attacks on innocent Israeli civilians by Hamas and Arafat's unwillingness to stop them are the real main obstacles for peace in the Middle East, also keeping in mind that Israeli retaliations for such attacks are quiet natural. Instead of planning to humiliate and destroy Israel the Palestinians should plan for a peaceful co-existence with Israel by achieving peace at the earliest by non-violent means. The millions donated to them by the U.S., the European Union and the world community should rather be used for the development and uplifting of the Palestinian population rather than for buying or smuggling of more weapons for attacks against Israelis and training Palestinians youths to become suicide bombers.
Gabriel, India

The Palestinians are carrying out small-scale terrorism. The Israelis on the other hand are carrying out large scale state-sponsored terrorism. The only way to stop the violence is for both sides to compromise. People will have to swallow their pride and their hatred, or continue to pay for it with the lives of their children.
Mark, Austria

Everyone sees who is the powerful, everyone sees who uproots the olive trees, and everyone sees who expands settlements. None but the naive believe that Israel is the victim...
MY, Greece

When is the finger-pointing going to end

All of us are appalled by this senseless violence. When is the finger pointing going to end and wisdom dawn on the Middle East? Lets remind those, on both sides of the conflict who incite violence and believe that the way to peace and security for their nearest and dearest is through violence, the words of Gauthama the Buddha uttered 2545 years ago: 'Hatred does not cease by hatred, but by love. This is an eternal truth'.

Peace in the Middle East will only happen when the American people wrest control of their own national government from the control Israel's Likud Party has over Washington. It is sheer hypocrisy to hear the call from the U.S. that the expansion of settlements should cease when it is our government and the "Israel First" supporters here in the US which is funding these expansions.

It is ironic indeed that Likud has only held office in Israel with shaky coalitions but can easily muster overwhelming support in the U.S. Congress to the tune of over 90 per cent.
Stephen B, US

The Palestinians want land for peace. The Israelis want to sacrifice peace for land - I don't really see a compromise. In response to Phil Davies' comments -outrages haven't only been carried out by the Palestinians, but also by the Israelis as well (remember Saba and Shatilla?)-I don't really see why Palestinians shouldn't have a right to retaliate to Israeli aggressions.
M. M. Zaman, UK (in US)

If Yasser Arafat wants peace then he has to stop the violence

Phil Davies, UK
I am afraid they are not. The Palestinians have on average 12 children, 10 are for the cause, two are for them (Yasser Arafat). When they love their children more than they hate us then we will have peace (Golda Meir).If Yasser Arafat wants peace then he has to stop the violence. Every time there is an outrage the Israelis will hit back and hard it is as simple as that.
Phil Davies, UK

Bargaining, talking over, sacrifice and compromise can result in a peaceful settlement

A.R.Shams, Pakistan
Yes, settlements are the main obstacle to resuming peace negotiations. Bargaining, talking over, sacrifice and compromise can result in a peaceful settlement. Thus a peaceful atmosphere can be had for peaceful debate in the Middle East.
A.R.Shams, Pakistan

Clearly they are not the main obstacles to the peace negotiations, the question of Jerusalem is a matter of grave concern. The fact is that there are too many issues, all very important to solve. However there can be no real compromise on settlements, and ever since Resolution 242 was passed, Israel has been breaching International Law. As radical as it may seem, it would appear that legally Israel should scrap all settlements, but there is no doubt that Israel should definitely freeze expansion of them.
Alejandro Ashley, UK

A freeze on expansion of settlements is nothing but bare-faced cheek

Ahmed, UK
Israel needs to accept that its occupation of Palestinian land is illegal by law. A freeze on expansion of settlements is nothing but bare-faced cheek. Imagine if someone moved into your house and said I'll live upstairs while you live downstairs. Would this be any kind of compromise?
Ahmed, UK

I thought that collective punishment was banned under the Geneva Convention? Regardless of the fact that the suicide bombers aren't affiliated with Arafat the Israeli government keep blaming him for the attacks as if he can stop them any more than they can. What will it take for the western world to condemn this savagery? I deplore the terrorism of extreme Palestinian groups. But how is Israeli state violence containing it? Is it not creating more suicide bombers?
Findlay Clark, Canada

The settlements are indeed a key impediment to achieving peace, but to focus exclusively on this issue, without addressing the failures and deficiencies of leadership in Arafat and the Palestinian Authority, would be simplistic and erroneous.

The Israelis need to summon the courage to completely close down their settlements. This will enable Israel to reclaim some of the moral high ground it has clearly lost recently and then be in a position to challenge Arafat and the Palestinian Authority to cease from inciting their people to violence and to cease their not-so-subtle anti-semitic attacks in their media.
Steve, USA

If the British had responded like that then Northern Ireland would have been flattened long ago

A Palestinian terror bombing is invariably followed by Israeli army attacks on civilian buildings. If the British had responded like that then Northern Ireland would have been flattened long ago. Israel has obviously learned nothing from their own history and treat the Palestinians like Jews were treated under the Nazis. And what do we do with our superior humanitarian foreign policy? Next to nothing.

The only obstacle to peace is the Palestinians' unwillingness to reach compromise with the Israelis. They were offered a state, dismantling of the settlements, right of return for refugee's and east Jerusalem as their capital. They instead chose this conflict and they are now having to digest their own medicine that they have handed out.
John, South Africa

Imagine the Saxons or Normans returning right now to the UK, demanding half of the country, throwing the current residents (namely us) off our land, out of our jobs and homes, occupying them themselves, then deciding this isn't enough, they want more, so occupying (by force) areas of Wales and Scotland as well. Maybe I understand how the Palestinians feel. Even the Israelis must understand that at some point, their 'settlements' will have gone too far and they will simply have to make do with what they were given in 1947, not with what they can take in 2001. I dare the UN, USA and UK to stop this ethnic cleansing.
Bob, UK

The only way that it will stop is if there is an all-out war

Tom O'D, UK
I think that it is clear people in Middle East are gearing up for war and nothing short of a miracle will prevent it. Settlement is obviously one of the problems but obviously not the only one. Palestinians will not give up and Israelis will not stop retaliating, this just leads to an endless cycle of violence. The only way that it will stop is, or so it seems, if there is an all out war, which as usual Israel will win. This will just cause more tensions in future and the cycle will begin again. This has gone on too long and caused too many deaths. If both sides are not careful there will be a lot more deaths when the Israelis fight back properly.
Tom O'D, UK

I hate to have to voice what I feel are everyone's thoughts... "Will nothing short of an all-out war put an end to the squabbling in the Middle East? Haven't we learnt ANYTHING from history?

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See also:

18 May 01 | Middle East
Analysis: Israel's offer on settlements
14 May 01 | Middle East
The Mitchell report
06 May 01 | Middle East
Israel sticks to settlement policy

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