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Monday, 2 September, 2002, 14:16 GMT 15:16 UK
Middle East: Will the plan work?
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Israel has agreed to begin reducing its military presence in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank town of Bethlehem in exchange for Palestinian efforts to reduce militant attacks.
Palestinian officials said the two sides had agreed that Israel would withdraw its forces from Gaza and Bethlehem within 48 hours, but Israeli authorities have indicated a much looser schedule.
Sunday night's plan follows a similar agreement reached earlier in August, which came to nothing.
A senior Palestinian official, Nabil Abu Rudeina, said the withdrawals would "prepare the atmosphere" for more pullbacks.
But the militant Palestinian group Hamas said it did not support the plan.
Do you think the plan will work? What can stop the cycle of violence?
This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Karel vd Berg, Netherlands
It's certainly a step in the right direction but unless a permanent international border is agreed between the two countries, there is no chance for peace.
No plan will work unless religious and racial prejudices are eliminated. Religious, Racial, and all other forms of prejudices are impossible to eliminate when countries are established based on religion. Neither side is capable of doing this and there lies the entire problem. You people can go around in circles with your discussions consumed with the art of self deception, however, no plan will ever work unless prejudices are eliminated.
How many times has the world heard 'Israelis are tired of conflict'? If that is true, why occupy land? Why destroy houses? Why destroy the lives and future of the people you want peace with? We the world are quite sick of the entire mideast affair.
Vladimir Beker, Israel
The latest security concessions by the Israeli government and army are a last ditch effort to preserve their public image around the world. This gesture could be the beginning of the end. Israel will never be viewed in the same light again. Its favourite-nation status is over. The Palestinians should use this concession to promote an atmosphere of goodwill and reconciliation.
If the premise were correct that the human bombs are a response to Israeli occupation then this should be a step towards decreased violence. Unfortunately, for many Palestinians the human bombs are a response to the very existence of Israel. This fact does not make me optimistic.
Joe, New York, USA
It seems to me that Israel wants to progress peace, yet various militants vow to continue despite that. These militants have to try to compromise for the sake of innocent lives being lost on both sides. I think both sides' leaders should stand down and allow new young leaders to make peace who don't have personal hatred towards each other.
I'm strongly opposed to the idea of people deploring "civilian casualties". We should rather speak about the loss of human life. The troops are "civilians on duty" and if they could choose, some will relinquish from pulling a deadly trigger that will make an "enemy" breathe his last. I once heard on the BBC a Palestinian say there is no such thing as an Israeli civilian since they are all trained. But I believe peace can be achieved in that region. Israel and the US (its colonial power) must lead the way because they are the strongest. The end of religion could also help. Some people hold it for truth that this war will never end because the Bible said so.
Israelis and Palestinians: Agree to live in peace and build a democratic and free model for the rest of the region. You have much more in common than you have differences.
If Israel determines in a fair and open court of law that certain relatives were accessories to the crime of suicide bombings, they deserved to be punished. Otherwise, indiscriminate expulsion is illegal.
Mike, Rudolph USA
These relatives can only be exiled to Gaza if Israel can prove that they are accessories to murders we euphemistically call terrorism.
When did it become "unfair" to punish accessories to murder?
The expulsions may not be fair, but they might be effective, only time and implementation will tell.
RELATIVES of SUSPECTS? How can you ask if this is right or fair? If I killed someone, would you send my mother to jail if I managed to elude all efforts to capture me?
Suresh Gnasegarah, Cyberjaya, Malaysia
It isn't fair or just to punish one person for another person's crime. Morally that's a ridiculous question to ask. But what has fair or just ever had to do with the situation between the Israelis and Palestinians? On one hand the Palestinians regularly attack innocent Israeli civilians rather than the occupying military forces. On the other the Israelis casually use missiles and helicopter gun ships to hunt the terrorists in neighbourhoods densely packed with Palestinian men women and children. Opening fire on nine-year-old children for curfew breaking when they and their families emerge from their homes for food. All I see is hatred and fear.
Imagine living in your current home with your parents and your children's children. Unbeknownst to you one of those children is fighting against occupation and gets caught or killed. Now, already overwhelmed by grief, you learn that your home will be bulldozed to rubble. Does the destruction of your home make you feel less angry or more angry?
Even if this collective punishment is deemed legal, it should be stopped immediately if it doesn't stop the suicide bombings. Is there any humanity in Israel?
The only way peace will come about is through compromise. We have seen in the years since Israeli independence in 1948 that neither side will let the other control the whole state. This will not change, and the longer it goes on the worse it gets. People directly involved are losing the point of why they are there in the first place. I just don't understand why more people cannot recognise that compromise is the only way out. Dual control or separate states, whatever is decided must be better than the current situation.
The best solution to this problem would be if a Palestinian leader along the lines of Martin Luther King, Ghandi or Nelson Mandela were to rise to the occasion and bring a message of peace, rather than one of blame, hate, and militancy. If there were a leader on the Palestinian side committed to peace the Israelis would vote Sharon out of office in a heartbeat.
How can there be peace? Every time the UN comes up with a resolution the US vetoes it. The US has therefore awarded itself a monopoly with regard to peace-brokering in the region. However the US has now decided that it won't talk to the Palestinian leader. The only possible conclusion anybody can come to is that the US doesn't want peace in the region at the present time.
One thought for a small improvement in the present situation. Remove Sharon and Arafat. They are playing out a long-standing personal vendetta using other people's lives.
The US is not able to bring peace in Middle East,
as they are no longer trusted by the Palestinians.
Why? Because the US continue to sell weapons and provide money and intelligence to Israel and yet again they call themselves a peace-loving country. To bring peace in the Middle East, we need a stronger UN, backed up by the rest of the world. Douglas from Scotland said the Israelis do not take much notice of what the UN has to say. I believe the UN must take action against this sort of response; otherwise there is no peace for another 50 years to come. The UN must act stronger and sooner.
The recent letter saying that the bombings are hurting the Palestinian cause is a step in the right direction but it is important that these words be accompanied by a change in attitude, heart and approach.
No one expects the Palestinian Authority to eliminate suicide bombers tomorrow but if the PA wants to be taken seriously, we have to see clear and unambiguous progress toward eliminating the terrorists in the territories.
The innocent people are just pawns sacrificed for those leaders who need to maintain their popularity as to win elections by drumming up support using nationalism. This is just a ploy. The UN or the world needs to recognise this issue and in recognising it, we can solve it peacefully through a third party country where a resolution must be reached. Be it Palestinians or Israelis, all of them are human beings with family and friends. Only when the evil doers stop, agreement will be reached.
For how much longer will innocent people continue to die before a final solution to the Middle East crisis is found? I believe it is time world leaders stopped playing politics at the expense of human life.
The difficulties of religion and history are well documented and it is now time also for the United Nations to start taking stock of their role as a world peace-keeping force and to start getting around the table in a more serious and concerted effort to resolve the ever increasing tension within the Middle East.
The situation of the occupied territory within Gaza is never going to be resolved with one party exercising dominance as has been shown in recent months.
N. Bradley, UK
The international community should force the US to identify and hold talks with the current ELECTED head of Palestine. There is no reason why Arafat should be excluded from any peace talks when he is the leader of the Palestinian people.
There will never be peace in that region as long as religion exists. End of story!
Larry Weintraub, Philadelphia, USA
Can there be peace in the Middle East whilst we have supposed peace loving countries and their government officials such as the US and the UK selling weapons to and making money off such countries there?
Occasionally there comes a conflict that is so deeply routed into many different facets that the only real solution to achieving everlasting peace is simply to let them duke it out until there is only one unquestionable winner. Only then will there be everlasting peace. Until this happens, there will not be peace. There will only be fighting periodically interrupted by the occasional ceasefire.
I believe that both the Palestinians and the Israelis are thirsty for peace. Still, I do believe that ending the Israeli occupation according to the UN resolution would stop the violence. Also, the US's flagrant bias toward Israel must be stopped as soon as possible, because I think that the US allows the Israelis to continue committing war crimes.
Thea Berg, Netherlands
Ultimately, peace will only come by moderates on both sides getting together and agreeing, isolating the men of violence. At present violence is the mainstream option on both sides. Even then, it will take time for support for violence to wither away, but it will happen eventually, as it has elsewhere.
Could specialists such as sociologists, psychologists as well as armed forces professionals and security experts that gained experience in Northern Ireland help to achieve the main Middle East peace process objectives in practice?
Daniel Weinberger, Israel
It has to be obvious to even the most jaded, most hardened persons, that the two sides will never come to an agreement, so let them agree to disagree, part ways, set up a border with two states, and top it off with a high wall between the two (similar to the Berlin Wall)...
The violence on both sides has been horrific and never-ending. Courage on both sides is needed if peace is ever going to arise.
The UN resolution certainly does not help - it only makes things worse. To start off with, any resolution passed against Israel is automatically void as Israel has not been granted equal member status. Its main aggressors in three previous wars go unchallenged in the UN security council. It is the only country in the world to have been singled out in such a way.
And what will happen if Israel doesn't immediately comply - a US-led allied invasion? Economic sanctions? I doubt it somehow. UN resolutions only seem to make a difference if there are sufficient Western interests at stake.
One method of achieving peace would be to have a joint UN, PLO and Israeli military patrol over Gaza and West Bank areas. I think it just might lower the tensions for a little while.
The main problem is that too many of the participants in this conflict want not peace, but victory.
A Lahlali, United Arab Emirates
The only chance to achieve peace in the Middle East is for the UN to pressurise Israel into withdrawing from the entire West Bank and East Jerusalem. By doing so, Israel will be controlling 78% and the Palestinians 22% of the disputed area. But, in addition, Israel will be recognised by most Arab States, especially Saudi Arabia.
This UN call for Israel to withdraw from Palestine won't work. The Israeli government has never obeyed or even considered any UN resolution put forward to them. They know that the US will either veto it or resist any kind of sanctions against them. It is a futile effort by the UN.
Since it became obvious that the PA couldn't or wouldn't stop the attacks against Israeli civilians, the Israeli policy has been to deal with it wearing an iron fist in a velvet glove. It's now time to take that glove off.
Israel has been forced to set up curfews and checkpoints to prevent terror attacks on innocent civilians. Any nation would do the same when faced with such a horrendous barrage of bombings and shootings. Let no one forget that the Palestinians had freedom of movement, a burgeoning economy, and, most important, imminent statehood, just two years ago. They then choose to reject Israel's and Clinton's offer and, inexplicably, responded with violence.
Neither of the combatants will succeed in defeating the other. The final solution must develop along the lines of plurality - a shared state. Call it what you will - how about the "United States of the Middle East"? A shared government would evolve and the Israelis and Palestinians could direct their strengths at bettering the joint venture rather that battering each other.
To those who suggest some sort of "international", "secular" or "world" state to replace both Israel and Palestine, I have one thing to say. Let's secularise some of the dozens of Muslim and Christian states before we pick on the one tiny Jewish state.
Jews have lived for thousands of years in Catholic, Protestant, Muslim and secular countries and have suffered persecution, holocausts, expulsions. We have learned that the only way we can guarantee our own security is by standing up for ourselves. That is what the State of Israel is all about.
Joost Douma, Netherlands
The cycle of violence will end when the world community condemns the deliberate killing of innocent civilians in an attempt to achieve political causes, justified or not. Until the world speaks in one voice against the deliberate targeting of civilians, there will be no peace. How and when did it become fashionable to kill and maim women and children to achieve a political end?
How on earth does Israel think it can stop this escalation of violence through force. Each time they tighten the noose on the Palestinians it simply increases their will to resist. By punishing ALL Palestinians for the actions of extremists they widen the support base of militants.
What happens once they lift the ban on movement in the West Bank? Do they seriously believe that by eliminating a few trouble makers and their families the problem will go away? I think they hope that it will - again illustrating that Israel's so called "solutions" are really just part of the problem.
Israel is fighting for their survival. There is sadly no possible hope for peace. Sharon can't negotiate with Arafat, because Arafat will agree and keep destroying Israelis. Israel has agreed to give some of the land to the Palestinians in the past, but I don't think the Palestinians want the land as much as they want the total annihilation of Israel.
The suicide bombing can be perpetuated by a small, determined group of players. The general Palestinian population should not have to pay for the actions of the terrorists. Any other viewpoint smacks of prejudice and persecution. The Israelis should not invade Palestinian towns under the pretext of pursuing militants. Israel holds the reins. It need only show the Palestinians that it can withdraw and begin dismantling the settlements. Will it? If it won't, the world should intervene.
The Israelis and the Palestinians ought to renounce violence by words and deeds and follow the Abraham Lincoln way of destroying his enemies by making them his friends. It's easier said than done but with the spiritual strength that the protagonists seem to have no lack of, it may be just possible.
While acts of terror are obviously unjustifiable, both legally and morally speaking, I also find it hard to reconcile Israel's collective punishment tactics with any form of moral code; or more importantly, international law.
Kavita Sangani, USA
Arafat has been sidelined, now is the time to do the same to Sharon. That could be the starting point of a new peace initiative.
Neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians deserve their own state. The area should be occupied and administered by the UN. Perhaps 100 years from now, that zone could become an independent country, but not one that is based on any one religion or ethnicity. There should be no Jewish, Islamic, or Christian states. Separation of church and state is the only way to go.
Arafat should be removed, but Sharon also. The two will never achieve peace because they both are more interested in the other.
Quentin Holt, New Zealand
Israel has become by now an American colony. Put an end to the colony, let Israel behave like a mature, normal and modern country, and you will have peace overnight.
Only an international peacekeeping force is able to break this double genocide. Now, who opposes this?
The only way to stop the spiralling violence in the Middle East is for Israel to give the Palestinians what is rightfully theirs, their land and their freedom. It worked in South Africa, and it will work in the Middle East too.
When Rabin was prime minister and signed the Oslo accord we had terror attacks and suicide bombings; when Peres was prime minister we had terror attacks and suicide bombings; when Barak was prime minister and tried to sign a deal to set up a Palestinian state the response was terror attacks and suicide bombings. For anyone to suggest that the violence is an on going feud between Sharon and Arafat are too easily misled by media reports .No matter who is prime minister of Israel, the suicide bombings seem to continue.
Left-leaning liberals love to deplore "the cycle of violence". But what do they mean by it? The battle of Britain was a cycle of violence as was the allied invasion of Germany or the US military action in Afghanistan. Military action is the only option when dealing with an implacable enemy whose is incapable of regarding you with anything other than hatred.
The explosion on a bus in northern Israel should come as no surprise to anyone. It is the latest in the eye for an eye circle of violence. What is surprising is the suspension by the Israeli Government of the planned peace talks with the Palestinians. It is very clear that any hope for peace can only come from the negotiating table.
The world must stand one side against terror and its leaders. Only a true initiative against terror can be the trigger towards new talks between both sides for a lasting solution.
Israel should get out of the Palestinian lands, otherwise they will never live in peace and security. Israel's army is as bad as the terrorists killing innocent people. Both are terrorists, one of them in military uniform.
Only Israel can stop the violence. They have too much to lose. The Palestinians have nothing left to lose and are willing to go to the last inch of the land and fight for it.
Both sides have to step back from blame and hatred to end the endless cycle of violence. Yes, the Palestinians are guilty of terrorism as the Israelis are of imperialism. To forge peace and a new nation, blame has to be abandoned and both sides need to sit down and negotiate. Classic counter-insurgency warfare is not viable as both communities are too closely intertwined.
How can Israel possibly hold peace talks while some Palestinians continue murdering people? They deserve nothing for their cowardly actions.
More commitment is needed from the international community to restart talks. Violence cannot be a reason for not attempting a political resolution to the conflict. Talks must go on.
Unless we root out the concept of enmity from our minds, there won't be peace anywhere.
Put yourself in the Palestinians' position and ask yourself: "If we can drive the Israelis out of Lebanon, out of the West Bank and Gaza, why stop there? Let's continue and drive them out of all of Palestine."
How can the Palestinians be the aggressors when the Israelis have all the weapons? The clear and easy way out of this mess is for Israel to change its policy of unreasonable and humiliating terms of settlement for the Palestinians. It's no use Israel pretending that it's worried that it will be wiped out of existence when Israel is nuclear armed and backed by the worlds sole super power.
I believe the only solution between Israel and Palestine is for the UN to impose a state on Palestine and a new Israel state border because if we let this going on and on, the only victims will be civilians.
Israel and Palestine should work out everything on their own because the way the US is backing Israel and how (from what I read) al-Qaeda and other terrorists groups say that they're going to support Palestine, this could go even further and get worse as time goes by, and not just in the two countries.
It cannot be stopped unless people get rid of hatred. No security, no weapon, no fake insurance and partiality for or against one side will end it. If other nations are serious why don't they impose extra strict action and sanction on both Israel and Palestine?
I think a possible solution would be to declare the combined territories of both Israel and Palestine a world state, under the interim rule of democratically elected judges from across the world, similar to the international war tribunal. It is patently obvious that neither Sharon nor Arafat is capable of ending the conflict.
M. Siddiqui, UK
Both Israelis and Palestinians need to ask themselves, "What am I doing to further the cause of peace?" not "What do we want the other side to do before we will even think about peace?"
Well said, Jennifer, USA - simple and very wise. We can all, all over the world, ask this question of ourselves - "What am I, personally, doing to further the cause of peace in the world?" It isn't just up to Arafat and Sharon, or even George Bush - thank God!
Palestinian authorities should take positive steps towards arresting members of militant groups. These people could be handed over for trial at The Hague. Israel in return could begin removing Jewish settlements from the West Bank and Gaza and release any frozen Palestinian funds.
As an Israeli in self-imposed exile I can only shrug my shoulders, wait a few days until my emotional balance is reset, and dream of a day normality reaches the shores of Absurdistan (Israel/Palestine). It is quite sad to see people exploiting the latest outrage to vent their hatred towards one side or the other. Shame on all of you bigoted narrow-minded ignorant fools.
David Wiseman, Oxford, UK
This conflict has already existed for 53 years and it will probably will continue for at least 50 years more. I do not see any solution as there is too much hatred between the two sides.
In reply to Ian, UK, who asks where are the concerned leaders of the UN? I would just like to point out that many UN resolutions have been ignored by Israel. To me it seems that unfortunately the Israelis do not take much notice of what the UN has to say.
I read through the comments, and most still take a side and blame the other. THAT is exactly the problem. Lots of innocent people have unnecessarily died on both sides and it must stop.
I agree with Ben, UK. The one consistent of most view points on this issue seems to be blame. Someone has to be wrong, why don't we accept that maybe there is no quick solution?
After today's homicide bombing on innocent students I hope Israel responds by eliminating all those responsible.
Dave H, USA
Only if the world realises that Palestinians are the real aggressors in this conflict and there should be a war that would liberate the West Bank from its terrorist infrastructure - only then can the violence stop. Until then the war will continue. What the Middle East needs is a concentrated conflict focussed on destroying those who seek to harm innocent civilians.
The trouble started when Sharon, before coming into office as the prime minister, strolled into the Temple Mount. Both sides are keen on enforcing their point of view. You can change the leaders, but this will not improve the situation. This is truly a tragic situation, when 16-year-olds are willing to take up arms and children are brought up in immense fear.
Paul, Australia: Sharon has every right to stroll into the Temple Mount, just like you and I do. Only mad fanatics can deny this right (or deliberate terrorists who seek a pretext for terror).
Hasina Lookman, Canada
Whoever says that all Palestinians are terrorists are wrong. We should put ourselves in the shoes of Palestinians and see what happens to us. Instead of calling it terrorism, maybe Israel, Powell and Bush should try to go deeper and find the problem and see how these revenge killings on both sides can be stamped out.
Israel is not responsible for its acts, it is simply acting in self-defence. The Palestinians are incapable of changing their tactics. Israel therefore must withdraw to 1967's limits and see if the Palestinians move to end the cycle of violence. It's the only way.
Comment on Alejandro, Nicaragua's message: I think the only way peace can be achieved is by moving Israel back to the 1948 limit not just 1967. Is not supporting a modern day colonial state full of hypocrisy in itself?
I've just come back from Palestine and Israel and was horrified by what I saw on the ground. Forget the news clichés and the reporters posing outside the old city walls. Here is a situation of fear, anxiety and uncertainty affecting both sets of communities who live practically under siege.
The only encouraging sign was that amongst the Palestinians, there was a movement emerging slowly demanding an end to attacks on civilian targets and a new approach to deal with the situation. This movement included writers, intellectuals as well as politicians. Arafat is perceived as inept and past his sell by date by most Palestinians which can only be beneficial in the long run. The latest Israeli outrage has undoubtedly put an end to this fledging movement and has given the extremists the ammunition to continue with the violence and suicide bombing and who knows what next.
I agree with Sam Allami, UK and
Isn't this a classic example of the futility of killing for peace? As Dr Said said, a non-violent, Gandhi-style on the Palestine and Israeli sides must be started now in co-operation.
If Israel believes it has right (as well as might) on its side, then let her do the right thing by leaving the occupied lands, returning to the 1967 boundaries, return the frozen Palestinian assets and arrest rather than assassinate Palestinians it believes are involved in killings. The UN, US and EU could all support the measure and if the Palestinians still resorted to violence, the civilised world would support Israel. Unfortunately, Mr Sharon and Mr Arafat, have a historical enmity and neither leader is prepared to do what they were elected to do: lead.
I believe that wars are the final acts
that change the history and destiny
of people. Israelis and Palestinians
hate each other to the extent that
leads to the liquidation of innocent
people from both sides. Thus the
best solution is to leave both to
continue their bloody agenda until
they get fed up and respect precious
life through peaceful coexistence
between the two nations.
Ben, USA: I cannot agree more. I think everyone should leave the two parties alone to resolve their problems. Unfortunately though the US is not leaving Israel alone. They are providing them with the weapons, the financing and intelligence to continue their aggression. If we are to leave them alone then do not support one side and tie the other's hand.
These so called high level talks are more like kids shouting at each other saying do this and I'll do that. Divide the land so that the Palestinians have a Palestinian state then let each side stay in their own territory.
Until it is recognised that there are rights and injustices on both sides, Israel and Palestine will not be able to move forward. They must both learn from their past, but they must put it truly behind them.
05 Aug 02 | Middle East
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