Can Peace Talks Work in Face of PA Incitement?
“With peace talks about to resume after far too long an absence, it is time to get genuinely excited about prospects for peace. A political solution is just around the bend, but any peace based on borders and lines drawn in the sand will not bring a lasting peace. It’s easy to speak of the Green Line and security fences, Jerusalem and so-called “land swaps,” but the goal is not simply a Palestinian state next door; it’s about building a Palestinian nation. Mutual respect, along with economic freedom and stability are just as important to ending the conflict as anything Palestinian leadership and our Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu will sign. If Israelis and Palestinians are ever going to be neighbors living side by side in peace, the attitude on the ground needs to change. What I call Education for Peace, efforts need to be made to promote causes that are strengthening the relationship between Palestinians and Israeli citizens while doing away with the incitement that tears us apart.
In Ramallah, the most populous and important Palestinian city, streets and plazas are being named after Yahya Ayash, or “The Engineer” who, as leader of Hamas’ military wing, killed dozens of innocent civilians. Beyond the outrage and what this means as an insult to our victims, we need to start thinking about what kind of society is being built in the future Palestinian state. By glorifying terrorists, they are supporting indiscriminate killings as a legitimate political tool. The key to understanding the conflict is that support for terrorism is not driven by a desire to take a human life, but lies in the complete lack of respect for the “other” and the belief that your enemy is somehow less than human. This is what I mean by Education for Peace. Neither side is the bloodthirsty demon the other claims it to be. And both suffer from the illusion that victory can be won without adopting a change in our hearts.
That said, there are serious differences with how each side is preparing for the future Palestinian state. Israel is opening roadblocks left and right, increasing economic freedom for those in the West Bank and opening their economy. The reason why our Prime Minister is enacting these changes is to ensure that when the political solution is agreed upon, the Palestinian people will have an economy that can stand up on its own two legs. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had a very different reaction to Israel’s attempts to increase trade – an outlaw on the purchase of goods made by their direct Israeli neighbors. In addition, the Palestinian Authority has banned West Bank residents from using SIM cards that run on Israeli telecommunication networks. Both figuratively and literally, severing lines of communication is a knee-jerk reaction which helps no one and hurts us all. Both the State of Israel and the future Palestinian state will need to rely on each other for goods and services. This political move to damage one’s own economy out of spite is driven by the same forces that see the benefit in naming streets after terrorists.
Now that Israel is prepared to accept the legitimacy of a Palestinian state. However, it is time for both sides to show the other that they deserve their respect and recognize the authority of the other.
The next generation of Israelis and Palestinians should not be raised to hate and fear what is across the border. Education for Peace is about tearing down Hamas cartoons and begin painting a picture of what these two great peoples have to offer each other in a lasting partnership.”
Joel Lion, Consul for Media Affairs and Spokesperson for the Consulate General of Israel in New York.