I thank God for Jimmy Carter – a voice of sanity and compassion, and a man who understands the complexities of any peace process for Israel/Palestine. Dave
Don’t Give Up on Mideast Peace
By JIMMY CARTER
April 12, 2012
The current focus of leaders in Washington and Jerusalem on Iran has obscured the near- death of the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations and the inevitable catastrophe toward which Israel is now moving.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman have been establishing more and more settlements in Palestine on confiscated land. While they profess their support for a "two-state solution," their actions all aim to create a "Greater Israel," from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River. Washington has voiced opposition to these steps, but has not made any strong efforts to prevent them.
Since 1967, the consensus in the international community and among the majority of Israelis has been that there would be two political entities, with Israelis returning to their pre-1967 borders except for some small land swaps along the border. The Camp David Accords of 1978, accepted by Israel, called for the withdrawal of political and military forces from the occupied territories, and President George W. Bush specifically endorsed a Palestinian nation in this area. As late as May 2009, President Obama accepted this concept as the basis for peace. This strategy has been abandoned as Israel tightens its control over the West Bank and East Jerusalem, now populated by more than 2.5 million Palestinian Muslims and Christians.
There is a profound difference between "two-states" and "one-state." The former contemplates two nations with citizens living side by side in peace under terms to be negotiated between leaders of the two principal parties. Other world leaders have almost universally acknowledged that strong help and influence of the United States will be necessary, and all the Arab nations have offered to support such an agreement.
In the case of the "one-state" outcome, if granted the full rights of citizenship, Palestinians would play a major role in the new nation with a possible majority in the future. If deprived of these rights as inferior and second-class dwellers on the land, this will be a system of apartheid that will not be accepted by the international community.
As former Prime Minister Ehud Barak said in 1999, "Every attempt to keep hold of this area as one political entity leads, necessarily, to either a nondemocratic or a non-Jewish state. Because if the Palestinians vote, then it is a binational state, and if they don’t vote it is an apartheid state." Eight years later, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that if the two-state solution collapsed, Israel would "face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights, and as soon as that happens, the state of Israel is finished."
During my last conversation with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon before his stroke, he discussed with approval the "small land swaps" along the 1967 border. His proposal was that Israeli settlers living near Jerusalem should remain, with Palestinians given a land corridor to connect the West Bank and Gaza, on which a highway and railroad could be established. He had earlier said that the "occupation" of Palestinian territories was "a terrible thing for Israel and for the Palestinians and can’t continue endlessly."
Shaul Mofaz, the new leader of Israel’s Kadima party, said recently, "The greatest threat to the state of Israel is not nuclear Iran," but that Israel might one day cease to be a Jewish state, because Palestinians could outvote Jews. "So it is in Israel’s interest that a Palestinian state be created."
The people are already greatly mixed. About 20 percent of Israeli citizens are Palestinians, although living under severe restrictions. The number of Israeli settlers in Palestinian territories has grown from about 5,000 when I left office in 1981 to about 525,000.
However, the overall region is changing. Past efforts by Egypt, the Carter Center and others to bring about reconciliation among Palestinian factions, leading to another democratic election, have been frustrated by differences among them, exacerbated by opposition from Israel and the United States and acquiescence from former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. The newly elected leaders in Egypt are determined to use their influence to reconcile Fatah and Hamas and press for a final status agreement including peace with Israel. With international support, such an agreement is entirely possible.
It is heartening to realize that ‘peace in the Middle East," based on the two-state solution, is still feasible — but not for much longer.
As published in the New York Times
Jimmy Carter, 39th president of the United States, is founder of the Carter Center, which works to advance peace and health worldwide.
Israeli and Palestinian youth use Facebook to help find ‘virtual’ peace
Ruth Eglash – WNN Opinion
(WNN/CGN) JERUSALEM: Just days after long-time Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiators Yitzhak Molcho and Saeb Erekat clashed yet again at a meeting in Jordan, thousands of young people from across the Middle East gathered together online for an event which set a new standard for mutual understanding and partnership.
Conferences bringing together Jews and Arabs might be nothing new. But what set this particular event apart is that it happened in the virtual world of Shaker, a Facebook application that allows for instantaneous interaction between users utilising cartoon-like personas that have conversations or attend events.
The brainchild of YaLa Young Leaders – an online movement formed by Israelis and Palestinians last May and already “liked” by more than 50,000 people on Facebook – the conference garnered vast media attention and even attracted some high-profile dignitaries, including Jordan’s Prince Hassan bin Talal, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, blind opera superstar Andrea Bocelli and Barcelona football coach Josep “Pep” Guardiola, among others.
More than 12,000 people “attended” the two-day online event, indicating that there is a solid base of people still committed to finding a way to resolve the on-going conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.
YaLa is a play on the Arabic word for “get a move on!” and is a phrase also incorporated into everyday Hebrew. The YaLa movement includes volunteers from numerous countries around the Middle East and is now in the process of determining what steps to take next in order to keep this momentum going.
“The idea is to give young people, who are as capable as some of the main leaders, the chance to participate”, says Nimrod BenZev of the Peres Center for Peace, the Israeli organisation that helped establish YaLa together with Ramallah-based Yala Palestine.
BenZev refrains from saying that the online event was conducted in order to create “peace”; rather, he says it was to “improve regional cooperation and to find a way to end the conflict and the violence”.
“We are trying to create empathy and a sense of a joint future”, he says, adding, “peace is just not a fashionable word anymore and people in this region are sick of hearing it”.
Indeed, the focus of the virtual conference was to find fresh voices and allow them to create resolutions in a more “democratic” way.
Those who logged onto Shaker for the virtual conference found themselves in a green and colourful world, where their cartoon-like personas could engage in discussion or attend one of the events taking place.
Attendees could visit the music room, contribute to a “book project”, or view the games portal and help develop an online gaming initiative. But perhaps most importantly, those who joined the conference could have their say about the movement’s “Declaration of Principles” and help set its agenda for the future.
Among the conclusions reached by the thousands of young people who interacted online was the need for a virtual academy that will promote new ideas and provide webinars – or web-based seminars – to help train a new set of young leaders.
“We want to create a strong lobby in the Middle East to affect policy, build a better future for everyone and use our influence to stop future wars”, states Hamze Awawde, one of YaLa’s young Palestinian leaders.
“We see this movement as the basis of change and we need strong young people who are well educated and intellectual. Then we will be able to change our future”, he says.
Despite some of the social pressures in the region that discourage relations between Israelis and Arabs, Awawde points out that YaLa, thanks especially to the virtual conference, has been successful in attracting newcomers who share the vision.
Khaled Al-Jacer, a YaLa leader from Kuwait, says that the movement has finally given him a chance to interact – albeit virtually – with Israelis.
“I had never communicated with or met any Israelis in my life before I joined YaLa”, says Al-Jacer, explaining that until now he was not able to build a mental image of Israelis as human beings.
“I [have] now found that I have a lot in common with Israelis”, he says, adding that from what he has learnt about Israel’s progress in technology, the Jewish state might even be a “catalyst for regional development and success”.
“As for peace”, continues Al-Jacer, “I think it is the only option – it is a must! There will never be a military solution to this century old conflict. Each side must compromise and the sooner they realise this fact, the sooner we will have peace.”
Ruth Eglash is a senior reporter at The Jerusalem Post. Last year she became the first recipient of the United Nations X-Cultural Reporting award for a story she wrote with a Jordanian journalist.
WNN encourages conversation. All opinions expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Women News Network – WNN. This op-ed has been brought to you through an ongoing WNN – Women News Network partnership with CGNews. Source: Common Ground News Service (CGNews), www.com…. Copyright permission is granted for publication.