Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Reflections on the eve of renewed peace talks...

Jewish familyI woke up this morning to the news that four people had been gunned down and found dead in their car.

The details explain that this was a terrorist attack, carried out by Hamas, against four Jewish settlers in the West Bank. After years of relative calm, this disguising murder was perpetrated.

As Israelis across the country weep for the lives of four people, Hamas supporters in Gaza and the West Bank celebrate over the deaths. There are pictures of children in Gaza, waving green Islamic flags – they believe that Hamas is successfully fighting for their “freedom” against the evil occupiers. Those evil occupiers: all Israelis, not simply the settlers.

This attack comes at a critical time: the day before direct peace talks in Washington, between Abbas and Netanyahu.


It is no coincidence. Its consequences are reverberating all over this country, and beyond. The settlers came out with a statement today claiming that this murder justifies them to break the settlement freeze- of which they plan to do at 6:00pm today. The Palestinian Authority is trying to make good to America, and in one of their biggest group arrests, has arrested over 300 Hamas supporters. People are claiming that Hamas is trying to spoil the peace talks- in an attempt to scare Netanyahu away. However, Abbas and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad both condemned the attack and vowed to prevent any further terrorist attacks.
peacetalksYet, no matter the reaction, the murder has created a dark cloud over the entire peace talks. Israelis are reminded, yet again, of their security issues, and the horrible means of which Hamas will take to pursue their goals. And as settlers rear to continue building in the West Bank, Palestinians are reminded, yet again, of on what land will their state be created.
George Mitchell has said that the attack only shows how critical peace is and that Obama is putting the peace talks at top priority. He hopes that within the year there will be an agreement. Shimon Peres has made a statement saying that we should put our faith in the peace process- don’t let terrorism win. Obama has said that only peace in the region can bring about a different path.

But… is anyone convinced? Today’s attack only proves how difficult the situation really is.

In Annapolis, in 2007, Ehud Olmert, Mahmoud Abbas and George Bush convened, and together they spoke and decided that in one year there will be peace, following the two state solution. There was even a countdown in Tel Aviv. renewed buildingBut 3 years later, are we any better off? What hope have we to put in these peace agreements? What’s better now? A right government coalition, instead of Olmert’s center left? Already it doesn’t look like Bibi has any intention of renewing the settlement freeze , and if he doesn’t Abbas has threatened to pull out of talks immediately. But does that even matter when settlers are going to build either way, and terrorists are going to kill either way?

I’ve always tried to be hopeful when it comes to this peace process. I was brimming with excitement when the leaders met in Annapolis. But it failed… it fell in line with all the other attempts at peace. Are we doomed to live in this status quo forever?

I’ve always believed that terrorism has been a symptom rather than a disease. We have to treat the real problem- the occupation. If a real two state solution was created, self-determination and self rule would help to empower Palestinians to believe in Fatah rather than Hamas. To believe in peace rather than violence. To pursue education and careers instead of martyrdom. Younger generations are growing up learning violent radicalism because they have no hope. After all- what has Fatah offered to them?

Israelis are growing embittered and fed up with the situation- there is no trust. There is a growing right winged Zionist nationalist movement in support of settlers and the status quo. The thought is that despite a peace- there will still be terrorism, because Palestinians are growing up radical- it’s not simply a land issue it’s religious one.

I know that I still believe in the ideas of peace, but how much can I believe in its reality? The issues are so sticky and run so deep that every possible solution has a counter argument. I can remember myself in November 2007, I was incredibly hopeful, but then incredibly let down. So what can I think now, on the eve of renewed peace talks? I can only pray to be surprised, I can only pray that this time it does work, and I can only pray that there will be peace.

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