I just came back from a tour of Israel and soon to be Palestine. During this tour I met with a significant number of top Palestinian and Israeli political leaders. I met with Vice Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, political leaders from Likud, Labor, Shaz, Mafdal, Shinui and others. I also met with the Minister of the Economy of Palestine, leaders from Fatah and Hamas, as well as other young political leaders and activists in Palestine.
And I am sorry to say, that I do think that the Palestinian leaders are losers and the Israeli leaders are arrogant and insensitive. And this is the main reason why there’s no peace in this part of the world.
We all know what the solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is. In fact, it’s relatively simple. First, the extremists who are a minority in both nations have to be controlled. The Israeli settlers who believe that the West Bank and Gaza are part of Israel have to come to terms that they’re not. And the Palestinian extremists who believe that Tel Aviv and Haifa and the rest of pre-1967 Israel are part of Palestine have to come to terms that they’re not. The settlers have to leave Gaza and the West Bank and the Palestinians have to give up on their unreasonable request of the right of return that could flood Israel with Palestinians to the point in which Israel would no longer be a Jewish state. If these two extremist groups are controlled, then the only thing to decide is how to partition Jerusalem. Most likely, the solution is to leave tiny Old Jerusalem to the UN to administer and divide the rest of Jerusalem as it’s now divided, into Jewish and Muslim populations.
So if this is the solution why is it not implemented? I think the answer is poor political leadership on both sides. From what I saw, the Israelis would prefer to focus on security measures that prevent Palestinian extremists from executing terrorist attacks, rather than confronting their own extremists. Following this strategy they have recently managed to reduce attacks by building a shameful wall of separation between Palestine and Israel and instituting an elaborate check point system that makes it incredibly difficult for Palestinians to move from one part of their territory to another.
On the other side, Palestinians play the Israeli game extremely well. Instead of trying to control their own extremists to force Israel to dismantle its check point system and go back to the system that existed before the Intifada in which Palestinians moved around their country and Israel without much problem and worked in Israel earning much needed currency, they support terrorists and sink further and further into despair.
Moreover, while the Israeli leadership is arrogant the Palestinian leadership is completely unable to see anything wrong with Palestine that may be the fault of Palestinians themselves. Absolutely everything that is wrong with their country they blame on Israel. In my conversations with at least 10 different Palestinian leaders, I could only get one person to agree with me that the Palestinians blew billions of dollars of aid in the 90s in the most corrupt manner. Interestingly, this person was a former Hamas militant, and now a leader in One Voice, the peace organization that I am a board member of.
In Spain we take great care from differentiating ETA, the terrorist organization, from the Basques in general. You will rarely find a person in Spain who mixes the terms. Basques are people who may or may not want independence. Etarras are criminals who kill civilians to achieve political objectives. However, in Israel these distinctions are not made. When you listen to Vice Prime Minister Olmert speak he uses the term Palestinian to mean both terrorists and the Palestinian people. And it is not just members of Likud who do this. Leaders of the Liberal Party Shinui do the same. All Israelis seem to demand that the Palestinian government control terrorism in the same ruthless manner that the Israelis do it while at the same time not taking any responsibility for the spread of settlements in the West Bank.
Palestinians on the other side are completely unable to see what they add to the conflict. Everything that is wrong in Palestine they blame on the occupation. At one point we were traveling in a bus with Palestinian leaders and I pointed out the fact that there seemed to be garbage everywhere in Palestine and I asked them “is it also the fault of the Israelis that Palestinians trash their own country?” Only then was I able to point out the lack of solidarity that is shown when somebody leaves garbage behind and expects others to pick it up.
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