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Monday, 25 February, 2002, 10:44 GMT
Middle East: What can break the deadlock?
Israel has used helicopter gun ships to attack key cities in Gaza and the West Bank overnight in a swift and deadly retaliation for the killing of six Israeli soldiers on Tuesday.

The attacks, which reportedly killed at least 12 Palestinians, also targeted Yasser Arafat's headquarters in Gaza City and his compound in the West bank.

The Israeli bombardment was the most intensive since the current uprising began nearly 18 months ago. The spiralling violence has resulted in 30 Israeli and Palestinian deaths since Monday.

After a meeting of the Israeli security cabinet on Wednesday morning, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said he had approved a "different course of action".

What can be done to stop the cycle of violence? Is Israel's policy working?

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

Your reaction

Get the politicians and the generals to forget about their ego trips and there will be peace

Alan, USA
It is very simple, Israel should retreat completely out of the West Bank and the Gaza strip and let time and commerce between a Palestinian state and the Israeli state work its wonders. The scary part is that Palestinians and Israelis are from the same original people, and they are very similar in mentality and aspirations. Get the politicians and the generals to forget about their ego trips and there will be peace.
Alan, USA

I have no idea what is right and what is wrong, who should have this piece of land and who should have that town. I do not think that Sharon and Arafat are more guilty than their people, or their people would show it. History shows that wars are not won only in the battlefield but also in the political arena and the behaviour of both sides has for the moment removed any hope for any of the side to claim a victory, peace.
Jerome C, UK

How come every solution ever proposed by Europe involves America doing something? We do not control the state of Israel. We support it (lest the Holocaust ever occur again), and should continue to support it. But we match what we give to Israel with what we give Egypt et al. The way to make the violence stop is to force the PLO, Egypt, Saudi Arabia etc to have humane governments and not to continue feeding our oil addiction.
Joshua Prismon, America

The US needs to abandon its opposition to an international peacekeeping force that would protect the Palestinians (and Israelis too) from violence. The apparently new Israeli tactic of assassinating Palestinian policemen is a shameful escalation of this conflict. Eventually Israel needs to end the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and remove the illegal settlements. In exchange the Palestinians need to stop the violence against Israelis.
Rich D, USA

The US holds the purse strings to actions on both sides. Bush needs greater vision and personal certainty in his foreign policy.
Richard Riley, UK

Most Palestinians don't want a side by side state.

Ross Larsen, USA
One thing pretty well documented but not often brought out is that many, probably most, Palestinians don't want a side by side state. They don't want to give up the right of complete return for everyone displaced in the previous wars. Arafat knows this. He has never been able, or perhaps willing, to press people to give that up and go for what they can get. I thin the deal they had been working out would have been rejected by the vast number of Palestinians and Arafat would become their enemy for signing it. The US and Europe need to engage Arab leaders interested in a solution, not just in condemning Israel on a daily basis. Those leaders need to use their influence to take the issue away from the armed bands and get Palestinians to focus on what is possible, not impossible dreams.
Ross Larsen, USA

The way to end the cycle of violence is to give the Palestinians the Gaza strip and Egypt should give some of the land next to the Gaza strip to their 'brothers'. Once this has been implicated all Palestinians should evacuate Israel and move to their new Home land - Palestine. There should be both nuclear and chemical weapons sanctions on the New state and impose a no flying zone over the new state. Palestinians should not be able to fly or travel through Israel. If the Palestinians then wage a war against Israel to capture the land that rightfully belongs to Israel which is all of it including the land that in this idea would be the New State. Then Palestine would obviously be waging a proper all out war and it would legitimise any action Israel wants to take including reclaiming the land that is rightfully theirs.
Anon, UK

I see an overwhelming number of comments laying the blame on Israel rather than where it belongs on the Palestinian authority. Arafat was offered almost all of what he wanted in the conferences with Clinton but decided to abandon peaceful negotiations for a terrorist approach. This should never be rewarded with additional concessions. If the Palestinians cannot hold out for a short peace to begin negotiations then surely the violence will never stop. Both sides have some share in blame, but the basic abandonment of peaceful negotiation for violence was the Palestinian decision and Israel should not be punished for this.
George Milton, USA and Italy

I think the rest of the world is better off treating it as a nasty sibling spat

gf, US
What will end this is mutually assured exhaustion. I am encouraged that a number of the previous commentators recognize that there is no one "good side" to this nonsense. And it is nonsense, however brutal. Unfortunately, the folks at the top are, as always, politicians. In this case neither of the top politicians, Sharon nor Arafat (and their various like-minded cohorts and rivals), has any interest in "sense". They each depend on the continuance of the violence for the continuance of their respective holds on power. I can't imagine either of them governing in a state of peace. Neither has the intelligence or the subtlety or the humanity for that much more difficult task. They are two old bloody-handed fools who don't know what else to be. And they each enjoy considerable support among their respective populations, it seems. Therefore I suspect this will go on for a long while yet. And I think the rest of the world is better off treating it (as even the more rational Arab states tacitly do) as a nasty sibling spat, and staying out of it. When they are tired, they will sleep, in the same room, and possibly even in the same bed.
gf, US

Several big problems: First, the Palestinian Authority is only slightly less trusted by the Israelis than by its own people. Corrupt and unpopular, organizations like Hamas, which provide education and health care, are gaining in popularity. Second, with the resumption in violence (blame can be affixed to both sides), any strength held by moderates on both sides was diluted, thus allowing the more reactionary elements to rise. Third, there has been a significant Israeli offer (Barak at the White House), but never a corresponding level of participation by the Palestinian Authority. Maybe the recent offer of diplomatic recognition by members of the Arab League in exchange for a pullback to the pre-1967 borders will start a meaningful dialogue. Finally, it is hard to say that Israel is occupying Palestinian lands. The territories were taken after Israel was attacked and defeated multiple enemies. The lands were previously owned by Jordan, Syria, and Egypt - none of whom gave land to the Palestinians then.
Sean, USA

I am disturbed that most people assume that if Israel eases pressure on Arafat and the Palestinians that the terrorism would stop. Many times Arafat could stop terrorism, and he did nothing. How many chances should he have to murder? Now the only option for Israel to have peace is to withdraw from the territories and give up Jerusalem. This is unthinkable. Could you imagine Britain saying to the IRA "you're right, we're sorry. Here is London for you to enjoy."
Lisa, Canada

There was an interview on Radio 2 news last night, where an Israeli woman said that for every Jew killed, they should kill several Arabs and also that a Jewish life was more valuable than an Arab life. As long as this ingrained, mindless hatred is present in the region, the killing and the atrocities (on both sides) will continue. People have to fundamentally change the way they think to make any difference, and how does one achieve that? The Jews, of all people, should realise what happens when you de-humanise an entire race. Collectively, this is the attitude of a person who was terribly abused as a child and goes on to become the abuser as an adult, perpetuating the cycle of abuse. Only when the cycle is broken can healing begin. But breaking the cycle of violence is by far the harder course - it takes immense courage, compassion, forgiveness and wisdom on both sides to effect real and lasting change in the region, a requirement to transcend baser human instincts and connect with the higher principles embodied so deeply in the religions of both nations. I'd desperately like to believe that both sides can do this ... because it's the only way back for all of them, and maybe for the rest of us as well.
Jo, England

It will continue until both sides see retaliation as a sign of weakness and not of strength.

Nic, UK
As is usual in these affairs, the Palestinian terrorists will continue to kill innocent civilians and the Israeli military will continue to kill innocent civilians. For every terrorist and soldier killed, another one will fill their place. And so it will continue until both sides see retaliation as a sign of weakness and not of strength.
Nic, UK

In spite of numerous UN Resolutions the Israelis continue to build and expand Settlements in the Occupied Territories. Why does the USA not see that this is one of the primary causes of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians ?
Mumtaz Ali, England

My opinion is: The only thing that will stop the violence in the Middle East is when both sides agree to the principle that they both have the right to exist. Saudi Arabia, today suggested that the Arab nations should recognise Israel. If that ever happens then it will be a positive step forward.
Frank, UK

We are a Palestinian decision away from getting the violence stopped. It was a Palestinian decision to start it 17 months ago, and they can finish it. Since the Palestinians are busy implementing the June 1974 PLO ┐Ten Point Plan┐, known also as 'The Phased Plan for the Destruction of Israel', I do not think they will.
Michael Pasternak, Hong Kong

There is one thing that can be done to express disgust at the treatment of the Palestinian people by the Israelis that is to introduce sanctions immediately as is currently being considered against Zimbabwe. There is much more reason to do this regarding the inhuman treatment of the Palestinian people.
Dave, UK

The United States must be willing to commit itself to protecting Israeli sovereignty

Chris M, USA
I feel that the only way peace will be achieved in the region is by a return to the 1967 borders, thus providing the land for the establishment of a real Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem as its capital. This must also entail a complete evacuation of the Jewish settlements in these areas, which have been the source of so much antagonism between the Palestinians and Israelis. In return, the Palestinians, along with the rest of the Arab world, must openly recognise the right of Israel to exist. In addition to this promise, the United States must be willing to commit itself to protecting Israeli sovereignty against any form of aggression, even if this means a long-term commitment of US forces to the region. I feel that this process would be the only real means of bringing peace to Palestine.
Chris M, USA

It is time to understand that the Palestinian leaders do not want peace. After all the leaders of Israeli people offered much of the land the Palestinian leaders wanted. They even offered to rip up 95 percent of the settlements and in turn give up five percent of the land inside proper borders in 1967. However Arafat himself has used the land he has gotten for a forward base to wage war with his eight different security teams. Think about it folks.
Tony, USA

Frankly, I think that Ariel Sharon should never have been allowed to rise to power considering his violent track record. What has been happening in the region is largely due to his intolerant policies and frankly, he should be prosecuted for past and present war crimes. Both Israel and Palestine have the right to their own country, but after all, it is Israel who took over half of Palestine and is continuously not satisfied: they should really be thankful for what they have without the thin strip of land. Talks are always better solutions in such situations, as the track record proves, before Ariel Sharon's time. His actions not only inflame the current situation, but call Palestine to open war. I don't understand why none of the western countries are taking a direct stand against Israel.
Joanna Tatarowska, UK

It's very convenient to blame Sharon for the current crisis, but the Palestinians didn't like Barak, or Netenyahu or Begin or any other Israeli leader. Perhaps the time has come for the Palestinians to look inwards and try a change of their own leadership before passing the blame over to the other side continuously. I imagine if the Palestinians really want peace as they say they do, then this is the only option left to them, and as a result of that the next Israeli leader will likely not be Ariel Sharon.
Dan, UK

Peace is achievable in the Middle East only when the needs of all people are recognised and fulfilled

Amir, USA
Peace is achievable in the Middle East only when the needs of all people are recognised and fulfilled, particularly regarding security and economic opportunity. Every day that security, freedom, and prosperity is denied to the Palestinians by Israel and her supporters is another reason to resist her. By realizing that the Palestinians themselves have a need for security, as well as an undeniable right to pursue happiness the same as their Israeli cousins, the fuel for attacks against Israel is removed, and the fire of constant violence extinguished.
Amir, USA

To begin with, Israel needs to feel secure. The countries currently opposing it need to recognise it's right to exist, and make some moves towards democratic government. This is a case of a democratic government opposed by dictatorships, and this should never be forgotten. In return the Israelis need to treat people equally, whatever their race. Water, electricity, sanitation, medical care needs to be given to Jewish settlements and Palestinian settlements equally. All laws governing housing need to have equality - no more houses demolished (or at least, not unless the Palestinians are allowed to demolish an equal number of Israeli homes of their choosing). I cannot see how there can be peace within Israel while one race are forced to live in refugee camps, and the other are given government supported housing.
Duncan Hurwood, England

I work in the centre of Jerusalem and since the Intifada started 30 innocent civilians have been killed in this area by terror attacks. The way to stop the violence is for the Palestinians to curtail all their terror attacks on the Israeli people and return to the negotiating table without preconditions. Israel took the step with the Oslo decisions to arrive peacefully at a resolution of the conflict with the Palestinians through negotiation and this needed compromise on both sides. What Barak offered the Palestinians at Camp David was definitely an agreement with compromises on the Israel side. Arafat refused to offer compromises on his side in order to take his people forward in striding towards nationhood, economic and cultural development. Instead he chose violence. There is nothing more that the majority of the Israeli public want than peace with its neighbours and to be able to assist all via economic and cultural means instead of having its government defending its populace against the daily terror attacks that have been enforced upon it.
John P, Israel

Every day I hear about how one side has attacked the other and this has been going on for many years with no end in sight. The Israelis always claim Arafat is not doing enough to stop the violence and that he is to blame. I honestly can't see how Arafat can be blamed for every suicide attack in Israel. He can't totally control every fanatical that wants to blow themselves up in a crowded Israeli street. The Israelis should withdrawal from all occupied land, start negotiating and the UN needs to send in troops to hold the peace. Also, the UN needs to declare the city of Jerusalem an International city so neither side can claim it. I feel every religion in the world should be granted access to Jerusalem. I also believe that America should immediately stop selling/giving weapons to Israel to suppress the Palestinian people. How can America be upset at Arafat for trying to smuggle weapons to defend themselves when they supply Israel with weapons? If the Israeli attacks continue, there won't be a building left standing in the West Bank and Gaza strip.
George, Canada

At the core of this problem is, perhaps, a mutually reaffirmed extremism of the US foreign policy and Israeli resistance to peace-seeking compromises. For all practical purposes, Washington serves as the life-blood of ultra-nationalist politics in Israel. The pro-Israeli lobby in the US, on the other hand, with its money and influence, has become equally indispensable to key Washington players. There is very little hope that this symbiosis will end until either Americans begin to assert greater sovereignty in their foreign policy or moderate Israelis mobilize a national will within Israel to dislodge this vicious cycle.
Bhakta Satyal, USA

How can any one say Israel doesn't want peace? It has sought peace from the Arabs for over 50 years. And what is this with oppression leading to terror? Would you say the same thing about the IRA, ETA, and the Corsican nationalists if they were blowing up hundreds of Europeans in the middle of Paris, London, Madrid? I don't think so. It seems the Czech Prime Minister is the only one who spoke out honestly and correctly on how to stop the so called "cycle" of violence - stop negotiating with terrorists, aka, Arafat and his dictatorship. Arafat should step down and allow for free elections - a first for any Arab country- and allow "Palestinians" to choose their own fate.
K. Bails, USA

One way is for an outright and complete boycott of all Israeli products in Europe. It possibly won't stop the fighting, but it would be a visible gesture by ordinary people that enough is enough, and if Sharon and Ben Elizer can't behave as humans then we don't want them.
Shaun Smyth, France

The main problem as I see it is that Israel is a wealthy, and technically advanced country. It is therefore extremely 'difficult' to forcefully make it comply with International Law. However if International Law means anything it must be made to apply to wealthy friends as well as poorer lands. Sharon's policies sit ill with the current international anti-terrorism law enforcement climate.
Bill Nicholas, Ex UK.

People who are brutalised and desperate often make very different decisions to those who are at peace.

Jon, UK
It is clear that the ill thought-out foreign policy of the US is a significant part of the problem here. Their simplistic crusade against terrorism fails to grasp the complexities of human conflict for the following simple reason: people who are brutalised and desperate often make very different decisions to those who are at peace. For this reason oppression often leads to terrorism. Until the US and Israel follow the rest of the world and end the military oppression in the West Bank and Gaza there will be no peace. A concept a schoolchild could easily grasp, but not, apparently, Sharon or Bush.
Jon, UK

Fighting in the Holy land has been going on for eons and will continue for years to come. The hate is embedded deep within them, and they continue to fight for what is precious to Jewish, Islamic and Christian religions alike - Holy Land. The fighting is never going to end until one side is completely annihilated by the other.
Dave, USA

Neither side wants peace. World opinions do not mean much to the Israeli government. They will continue to occupy the Palestinian land until the Palestinian people become subservient. Palestinians will not stop fighting until the occupation ends. Its a never-ending cycle. The US government needs to end funding for both the Israeli and Palestinian Government until they actually sit down and agree on peace. Whatever action is taken, the road to peace is a long one.
Seth W, USA

The Palestinians should realize violence does not further their means

Karen, USA
The Palestinians should realize violence does not further their means. Israel has not once instigated violence toward the Palestinians - only retribution for the Palestinian actions. Barak was prepared to give a lot to Arafat for peace - an offer which Arafat refused. The Palestinians must take responsibility for their actions and cease their violence toward Israel.
Karen, USA

Karen,USA: How can you possibly say that Israel has not instigated violence towards Palestinians? The very creation of the Israeli state in PALESTINE was an act of aggression. Refusal to comply with the conditions under which this state was recognised by the UN (the right of return of the indigenous people) is an act of aggression. The occupation of lands outside the UN recognised borders (including Jerusalem) is an act of aggression.

Peace is impossible while Israelis insist on playing professional victims and fail to recognise that they are the aggressors and occupiers in this case. It is the Palestinians (Moslem & Christian) who are the victims here and it is about time the world (especially the US) started recognising this.
Chazza, Scotland

It takes two sides to maintain a conflict, BUT we must remember that Israel has illegally occupied territory and exercised collective punishment (as defined by the UN). I really can't see Sharon waking up and seeing the light, that until he agrees to abandon his precious illegal settlements as part of an agreement, no progress can be made. Currently it appears that Sharon is saying "Stop resisting. I'll hit ya hard. If you stop, then I'll think about it...". Is it any wonder the militant groups are getting stronger.
Michael Dawson, UK / USA

What the situation calls for is a real leader....someone who is genuinely determined to push for a peaceful solution and who is willing to take the unpopular decisions to achieve that! Unfortunately there is a leadership vacuum on both sides. The initiative really should come from the Israeli side as they hold the overwhelming balance of power. While Sharon insists on what is frankly an unachievable period of peace (especially given the Israeli provocation of the situation), nothing will change! That however, is fairly obviously his agenda.
Jonathan Swai, UK / Kenya

I don't believe either side wants peace. As was the case with many European countries, it took centuries before they could agree on anything and especially peace. It may take decades or centuries of "tit for tat" actions before the Palestinians and Israelis can reach peace. The only problem is that today one side is armed with weapons of mass destruction.
Thierry Nolevaux, Canada

The answer can only come from within the area

Mark Quinnell, UK
It is the age-old story. Until everyone is willing to sit down and talk, and prepared to give and take the issue will never be resolved. Mindless tit for tat violence never solves anything. There are unfortunately, people who do not want peace, and such actions only play into their hands. The only answer is for the nations in that locality to find solutions. I am afraid that the West is perceived as biased towards the Israeli cause. The answer can only come from within the area, from the parties involved, rather than a deal brokered from the outside.
Mark Quinnell, UK

The simple solution would be for Israel to withdraw completely and abandon their settlements but that isn't going to happen. Israel should make the first move though. Arafat cannot control his people while he is under siege and every Israeli attack angers the Palestinian people further, resulting in more attacks on Israel. And if Sharon succeeds in his rumoured goal of removing Arafat from power, it will only serve to destabilise the region further.
Simon, UK/Finland

Simple... get rid of Sharon. His tactic of using violence to oppress the Palestinian people is playing into the hand of terrorists. If the Israelis really do want peace the only solution is to vote him out and hope the next prime minister realises that diplomacy is the only solution.
Ish, UK

The only thing that will stop the violence in the Middle East is when both sides agree to the principle that they both have the right to exist. Saudi Arabia, today suggested that the Arab nations should recognise Israel. If that ever happens then it will be a positive step forward.
Phil T, Oman

See also:

20 Feb 02 | Middle East
Israel strikes hard at Palestinians

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