The Promised Land
Turmoil in the Middle East is nothing new. Its inhabitants have been fighting amongst themselves and fighting off invaders almost since the dawn of man in that region. Old hatreds run very deep and often end in bloodshed. Sometimes the hateful rhetoric gets so bad the rest of the world must wonder how they will ever get past it. Most of the time they don’t and peace in that region of the world seems to be a pipe dream at best.
But despite all the death and bloodletting a few brave souls have tried to cross that line of hate and prejudice to extend the hand of peace despite the cost. Individuals like Anwar Sadat and Yitzhak Rabin paid the ultimate price for their peace efforts, giving up their lives in hopes that one day peace would come to this troubled area. Unfortunately the entire world is still waiting for that day to come.
Small glimmers of hope, like fleeting rays of sunlight on a cloudy day, have managed to grow and prosper in the sands of Sinai. Israel and Egypt have been at peace since the Camp David Accords in 1978. An official Peace Treaty was signed by both countries in 1979. Jordan and Israel have been at peace for 16 years. On October 26, 1994 representatives from Jordan and Israel signed the peace treaty in a ceremony held in the Arava valley of Israel, north of Eilat and near the Jordanian border. So the flame of hope is still there no matter how it flutters and threatens to go out.
Even as I write this article the US is actively pursuing both Israel and Palestine to continue with the peace talks that were started barely a month ago. This time the sticking point is Israel allowing construction of new settlements in the disputed West Bank. This has always been a point of contention since any peace treaty agreed upon would annex the West Bank to Palestine. That was why Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu imposed a moratorium on construction of new settlements in the West Bank last November. That moratorium expired at midnight Sunday and new construction started Monday morning.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told the French radio that Netanyahu “should know that peace is more important than settlements.” And he is right.
Those of you who read my October 3rd, 2009 article “Friends Forever?” know that I support Israel and see them as one of our strongest allies. However, even in the complicated forum of world politics your closest friends need to be told when they are wrong. And in this case Israel is wrong, very wrong. Prime Minister Netanyahu needs to step up and “bite the bullet” (hopefully figuratively) on this one and re establish the moratorium on new settlement construction in the West Bank. He needs to ignore his radical partners in Israel’s pro-settlement government and focus on the bigger picture. An Israeli-Palestinian Peace Treaty would tone down the escalating tensions in the Middle East dramatically. It would indicate once and for all that Israel is truly interested in living with its neighbors in peace. Would this peace treaty alleviate all the centuries of mistrust and hatred? I don’t think anyone is naïve enough to believe that. But what it will do is bring Israel another step closer to that day when the Middle East is no longer a bloody battleground but a place where neighboring countries can coexist in peace and prosperity. Only then can we say that Anwar Sadat, Yitzhak Rabin and all those others who sacrificed so much in the name of peace, did not die in vain.