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Ignore the fanatics
By RAY HANANIA
The Jerusalem Post
7 Sept 2010
I don’t understand why so many people are pessimistic about the chances for ending the conflict. Let’s face it, we’ve only been trying to achieve real peace since 1993. That really isn’t a long time. The conflict has been raging for more than 100 years.
Yet everyone tells me they have high hopes but low expectations.
Well, anyone who is successful will tell you that you must first have high hopes and high expectations, and then fight to make those hopes a reality.
There are many reasons for doubting that peace will come, including that abhorrent terrorist attack last week that killed four people near Kiryat Arba – a settlement whose inhabitants have with a history of vicious assaults against Palestinians. People have been killing each other there since the settlement was created in the heart of Hebron.
The people who live there are not Jews hoping to build relations with the Palestinians; many of them are part of a group determined to impose its will through Israel’s military protection.
It never was intended to be peaceful, so why are we surprised when it explodes in violence? But of course, nothing justifies the heinous murder of the four victims. We need to learn to separate our political differences and show our human compassion and tolerance for all.
THE FANATICS on both sides have already vowed to do everything they can to block peace. Armed gunmen from Hamas and other extremist Palestinian groups have vowed a campaign of violence to prevent peace – isn’t that how it’s always been? And Israelis from the far Right have also declared they will do everything to bring down the government of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
But we can’t be intimidated by hatred and threats. We need to stand fast for peace. We need to become vocal about peace. We need to show Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that we support peace, and that it’s the only answer.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak has said that Israel would agree to share east Jerusalem, taking control of the Jewish sectors and giving Palestinians control of the Arab sectors. That offer was alleged to have been made to Yasser Arafat but never formally offered at Camp David, where the failed “proximity talks” all began.
This time, Netanyahu and Abbas are meeting face-to-face, an important change from Camp David. This time, Jerusalem is on the table.
If Netanyahu has the courage to ignore the public opinion polls driven downward by years of conflict and hate, he can make real peace with Abbas.
The PA president has no choice but to stand up to the fanatics in Hamas,the PFLP and other hate groups who have taken the just cause of the Palestinian people and turned it into a formula for their own political aristocracy.
The issues of settlements and refugees can be resolved. Palestinians are ready to accept a rock-solid plan to compensate the refugees and help them rebuild their lives. To offset the right to return to their original homes and lands lost in 1948, they need strong words of support from both Netanyahu and Abbas.
Netanyahu needs to show understanding for what the Palestinians lost in 1948. It is the height of humanity to extend a hand to people who have suffered.
Israelis need to turn within and confront their own demons, and tell their own fanatics – who would just as easily resort to violence to block peace – to stand down.
Can they do that? Saving all our children depends on it.
The writer is an award winning columnist and Chicago radio talk show host.
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