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Road to Peace

The Tough Road to Peace

The bumpy road to peace in the Middle East lurches along. It is clear that apart from zealots on both sides, all sane Palestinians and Israelis want peace. Ideally, they would want it on their own terms, but in the real world, successful negotiations imply painful concessions.

The Israelis would like to hang on their settlements and see a truncated, patchwork Palestinian state that does not control its own water or airspace. Above all, they would want to retain total control of Jerusalem.

The Palestinians want to recover all the territory seized by Israel in 1967, including the parts of the Holy City lost by the Jordanian army. And above all, they want the right of return to Israel for descendants of refugees forced out of their homes in 1948.

In a perfect world, we would all get what we want, but in the real one, you have to give up some things to get others you want more. The outcome of negotiations frequently reflects the power equation on the ground, but if this were an inflexible rule, the Palestinians would get very little. However, there are several factors that strengthen their bargaining position. Firstly, they have legitimacy on their side in the shape of several UN resolutions.

Secondly, the Israelis know that if they want to be accepted in the Middle East, there has to be a fair resolution of the problem. Next, Israel has become accustomed to fairly high standards of living, and an indefinite conflict will emasculate their economy. Finally, Israelis can not beat the Palestinians in terms of sacrifices.

One of the things the Israelis will not compromise on is the issue of the right of return as this would spell demographic suicide for them because they are reproducing at a much lower rate than the Palestinians. Ideally Jerusalem, should be an international one where both Israel and Palestine have their capitals, but this will involve much bickering and horse-trading before a compromise is worked out.

Above all, the Israel and the United States must see that only an honorable peace - 'a peace of the brave' - will endure the corrosive passions of centuries-old rivalries and hatred. Any attempt at fobbing off the Palestinians with a series of 'Bantustans' will mean yet another cycle of violence.

[By Irfan Husain, Extract, courtesy Dawn]

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