There can be no peace for Israel and Palestine until a Palestinian Sadat emerges, argues Sam Hailes.
In a matter of days, Christians around the world will celebrate the miracle that sits at the centre of their faith: The resurrection of Jesus.
Fast forward 2000 years and Christians in the Holy Land are longing for a similar miracle. Not the resurrection of a person, but of a long forgotten peace process between Israelis and Palestinians.
In Obama’s recent visit to Israel he was, according to the UK’s Financial Times, “Strong on rhetoric but light on details about how the peace process might move forward”.
No discussion on this conflict is complete without a brief detour into recent history. A key moment was 1967 when the Israelis won the West Bank, Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights from the Arab world. Israel has since returned two of the four territories (Gaza and Sinai).
The Sinai Peninsula is by far the largest piece of territory Israel have ever captured. It is also the first piece of land that Israel ever traded for peace (Israel pulled out between 1979-82). In fact, it’s the only land for peace agreement that has ever worked for Israel, and not just worked in the short term but in the long term.
Israel now has peace treaties with Egypt (1979) and Jordan (1994). Both are best viewed as a cold peace, but both have lasted for decades.
While peace finally came to the Sinai, the same cannot be said of peace in Gaza. Thousands of lives on both sides of the conflict have been lost in and around the tiny strip.
So the question must be posed: “Why was it so easy for Israel to trade such a large piece of territory in exchange for a lasting peace with Egypt in the 1970s yet impossible for Israel to trade a tiny area of territory – Gaza – for even a short peace with the Palestinians?”
The answer has nothing to do with size or significance of land, but the willingness of opposite sides to negotiate and ultimately agree a deal.
Israel offered the Palestinians 97% of the West Bank at Camp David in 2000, but the offer was rejected. Israelis and Palestinians can make as many offers to the other side as they like. Those offers can appear as generous as they like to one side (I’m sure the Israelis thought 97% was very generous) but it’s always down to the other side to either accept or reject.
When Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005, they did so unilaterally. Even so, the UN called it “courageous” and the Palestinian Authority also welcomed the move. But in the hands of Hamas, the strip descended further into poverty, chaos and violence.
In the early 80s, Israel found a partner for peace in Egypt’s Anwar Sadat. The Sinai episode may now be confined to history, but it’s a history we shouldn’t forget. Israel has found partners for peace in the past, and they can find them again. They’ve successfully traded land for peace and they can do it again.
But Hamas is no partner for peace. How can you make peace with an organization sworn to your destruction, not on the basis of politics but of race? The answer is simply that you cannot. So rockets have rained down from Gaza onto Israeli towns for years. Israel has launched two major operations retaliating against the terrorists and innocent civilians have of course been caught in the crossfire.
What Palestinians need is another Sadat. They need a leader who is willing to make a peace deal.
Even a quick look at the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will identify extremism as a huge issue. The ball is in the Palestinian’s court to find a leader who will ditch extremism and negotiate a fair deal for Palestinians.
Over in the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority’s Mahmoud Abbas promised to negotiate with Israel if they froze settlement building. Yet during Israel’s last 10 month settlement freeze (in 2010), Abbas failed to step forward. It’s time for the Palestinian leader to listen to Obama’s advice: lay down pre-conditions for talks, get talking, and get peacemaking. It’s time for resurrection.
Latest posts by CME (see all)
- “Terrorist, plain and simple”? The misleading strategy behind the “terrorist” tag. – October 6, 2015
- Letter Smuggled out of Egyptian Prisons: Esraa El Taweel Speak – July 14, 2015
- We must not forget Abu-Salim – July 7, 2015