Reema I. Ali
Middle East Times
February 9, 2009 - 1:00am

It appears that George Mitchell, who has everyone's respect, has been dealt in the Middle East conflict as good a hand as U.S. President Barack Obama has in the U.S. economic crisis. The stakes are high, yet the players would like to continue the game in the good old ways! Just as the president would need all the brain power to assist him in negotiating the tough turns so does Mitchell.

Through the Gaza war, Israel has succeeded in creating a feeling of desperation among Palestinians of all colors and walks of life. All Palestinians feel angry, hopeless, and without leadership. For Israel the good news is that the Palestinians are without leadership who in their eyes truly represents their national aspirations. For reasonable Israeli strategic thinkers, this should be viewed as the bad news as well.

For decades Israel has systematically discredited all those who negotiated with it by pursuing policies of territorial expansion and systematic humiliation of the Palestinians. All Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas can show to his people is that Israel's prime minister, Ehud Olmert, likes to hug him on camera. This warm and conciliatory personal approach to Abbas without being backed by any measures that translate into a dignified existence for the Palestinian people makes the hug the bear kind!

Abbas and company were not allowed to deliver to the Palestinian people any of their inalienable rights. Fatah's leadership is seen as a police force whose purpose is to subdue revolt and for this they are rewarded by Israel through the facilitation of their corrupt practices and their monopolies over various staples.

Hamas - by many accounts an Israeli creation - is now caged in Gaza along with a million and a half Palestinians who are told by Israel in every manner and in no unclear terms that there is no way out except one way and that is out. They are also told by Hamas that the only way to live in dignity is to die in dignity.

The neighboring Arab regimes that remained, despite it all, faithful to the peace accords signed with Israel are left speechless in the face of opposition in their countries who point out to the daily and unrelenting episodes of injustice, inhumane and belligerent treatment by Israel of the Palestinians.

If Israel wants to live peacefully in the region, it must invest in the future of the region in a very different manner than it has done thus far.

Israel should decide if a stable Middle East is in its national interest. It must start the necessary 'internal debate' of whether or not it wants a peaceful resolution of its conflict with the Palestinians. This should replace the current Israeli debate of whether or not the war on Gaza ended prematurely. No war will resolve this conflict. Every war will end prematurely for both parties.

For all intents and purposes it appears that the United States has already concluded that it is in the U.S. national interest to have a stable Middle East which cannot be achieved without the peaceful resolution of this conflict and the creation of a viable Palestinian state.

The test is nothing short of what Obama so rightly pointed out. It is the future of the Palestinian and Israeli children and their right to live in dignity and security in the pursuit of happiness.

By all accounts the Palestinians would in 10 years outnumber the Israelis. The question the Israelis should answer internally is: Are they looking for a maimed desperate neighboring population good for garbage collection or a self-respecting neighbor ready to partner with them for the betterment of human kind?

This is not utopian talk! Those who were born on the day of the first intifada are now 20 years old. This generation has not seen the dividends of peace.

While greed can be to a certain extent a motivator, the overkill would back-fire sooner than later. Creating and maintaining ghettos in Gaza and the West bank is such overkill.

As for the Palestinians the time is now for national discipline and for the utilization of all national resources to achieve unity. Dignity requires discipline not slogans and the solicitation of sympathy.

The Palestinians should move away from the archaic factions that did not serve them well in the past. These factions have ranged from the corrupt to the irresponsible to the kingmakers. None of their leadership behaved in a statesman-like manner commensurate with the aspirations of their people.

There should be one national flag to which every Palestinian holds allegiance if the world is to recognize them as such. The Palestinians have in their midst a great wealth of capable people who could form a national unity government that would be transparent and uphold the rule of law. A government that would through its actions instill the principle that there can be an honorable peace.

It must be clear by now to everyone concerned that until freedom is achieved the democratic concepts of political parties and elections do not make any sense. The choice can never be free before then.

This is the only bright way forward!


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