From: The Daily Star.
By Shimon Peres
Forty years after the June 1967 war, peace between Israelis and Palestinians seems as distant as ever. Israel still refuses to accept the new Palestinian national unity government as a negotiating partner because Hamas is part of that government. What is the cause of this seeming paradox? Is there any hope?
The Palestinian government is united administratively, but divided politically. The Palestinians have one government with two policies. Politically, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh remains opposed to recognizing Israel and respecting the existing agreements. He declared that he is for the continuation of resistance in all forms. What kind of guarantee of a good faith effort to reach a peace agreement can come from such a stance?
That is the question the European Union needs to ask itself as it debates whether to resume providing financial aid to the Palestinian Authority. The EU should make it clear to Hamas that it is not going to finance terrorism and is not going to finance a refusal to make peace. If the Palestinians want to have European help - which I support completely - it must be ready to make peace, not break peace. After all, it is not Hamas as a party that is objectionable; what is objectionable are the politics and policies that Hamas pursues. Israel has nothing against Hamas; we are against their belligerent policies, which the movement's service in government has not changed.
There was a time when the Palestine Liberation Organization held positions that were the same as those of Hamas. Then the PLO changed. If the current Palestinian leadership changes its position, there will be no problem from the Israeli side. We will have nothing against negotiations. We are for negotiations. We are for the "two-state solution." We accept the Middle East "road map." What we are against is terrorism.
Where we cannot agree, however, is on a "right of return" for Palestinians. If such a right were recognized, there would be a Palestinian majority instead of a Jewish majority, which would mean the end of the Jewish state. This is a demographic, not a religious, question: an Arab state is where the Arabs are the majority, and the Jewish state is where the Jews are the majority. Indeed, the "right of return" contradicts the very idea of a two-state solution, as it would mean one state - a Palestinian state. Nobody in Israel will accept this.
But there are other problems in the region that Israel - and the world - must face. The Palestinians' current unity government resulted from Saudi mediation, which came in response mainly to Iran's ambition to increase its influence, not only in Iraq, but also in Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank.http://www.dailystar.com.lb
Of course, that issue is completely outside Israel's control. The ongoing fight in the Muslim world between Sunnis and Shiites recalls the struggle between Protestants and Catholics in 17th-century Europe. So it is little wonder that the Saudis, Jordanians, Egyptians and the Gulf states are seeking to resist Iran's hegemonic ambitions in the region.
Nevertheless, the stakes are far higher than in the 17th century, because Iran represents a threat that combines religion with a determination to acquire nuclear weapons. Indeed, Iran is the only country that openly declares its desire to destroy another member of the United Nations. That is a threat that every country must take seriously. When a country's president delivers threatening speeches, denies the Holocaust, and does not hide his ambition to control the Middle East, who can guarantee that the threat is not serious?
The issue is not one of restoring nuclear "balance" to the Middle East, as Iran's leaders maintain. First of all, Israel does not threaten anybody. Israel never said that it wants to destroy Iran; Israel never openly proclaimed that it would enrich uranium and build nuclear bombs in order to destroy another country. On the contrary, Israel has said that it will not be the first to use nuclear weapons in the Middle East. But that does not mean that we can afford to ignore an obvious threat from countries that want to destroy us.
Despite the current unfavorable situation, the path to stabilizing the Middle East still leads through joint economic projects. Even now, Israel is planning to build a new "corridor of peace," which will comprise the Jordanians, the Palestinians and us. Within the framework of this project, we are seeking to halt the dehydration of the Dead Sea, build a joint airport and a joint water network with Jordan, and develop tourism infrastructure, at a cost of up to $5 billion. We have the donors, so there is no shortage of money to finance our efforts, which, I am sure, will be realized.
Israel wants - indeed, desperately needs - peace and stability in the Middle East, and we will continue to do everything in our power to achieve it. But we cannot reach that goal alone, much less negotiate with those whose idea of a stable and peaceful Middle East is one that has no place for Israel.
Shimon Peres is Israel's deputy prime minister. THE DAILY STAR publishes this commentary in collaboration with Project Syndicate-HVG (c) (http://www.project-syndicate.org/).
1- Shimon Peres is a great Israeli leader and well respected all over the world.
2- As Arab and Muslims we have to be mature and look to the world with wisdom. Many of the Palestinian and Israeli leaders are heroes to their people and religion. We have to have this understanding.
3- God promised the Jews in the end of time if they to follow his commandments as well return to the promise land he will send his Messiah Jesus Christ.
4- We took them enemies and they did the same. The problem is not religion but lack of understanding and the Arab consumption of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
5- The God of Jews and Muslims is the same Allah or Hashem. He would love if we go back to him and be righteous and have peace.
6- Two state solution is a must.
7- The right of Palestinian to return means simply the end of Jewish state which is not practical and will never be agreed by any Israeli leader.
8- The return of Jesus is in few years. Most important for us as Muslims is to see peace accomplished and we put all our efforts to get better conditions to Muslims and non-Muslims every where.
9- Muslims and Jews have to be careful since some in the Christian right do not bless that. They see the prophecy as a peace made by Imam Al Mahdi who they think falsely is the Antichrist for few years and then he will attack Israel.
10- Muslims look at what is just which is to have peace and prosperity to both the Israel and Palestine people. Muslims have no hate to the Jews they live together for thousands of years. Most of time was peaceful coexistence. The God of Muslims is the just good of Torah who would not accept oppression or discrimination against his servants.
11- Palestinian should hold all attacks against Israel. They will get a good and fair deal, just cool it down and talk politics.