Arab News (Opinion)
October 24, 2010 - 12:00am

It is high time Israel and Jews realized that the path they continue to tread is not calculated to achieve a Middle East settlement that is just and durable. Though the world community, the peace brokers and the parties involved have repeatedly called on Israel to be more flexible and settle for an acceptable and just peace in the region, the Jewish state’s intransigence and unbridled quest to change the demographics of the region with new settlements dashes all hopes for peace.

On Saturday the Israelis were given yet another reminder of their wanton ways in pursuing a path other than peace that could prove detrimental not only to themselves but also the region. A Vatican synod on the Middle East, in its concluding message after two weeks of meetings, said it hoped a two-state solution for peace between Israel and the Palestinians could become a reality. At the same time, it took issue with Israel on the Jewish state’s use of the biblical concept of a “promised land” or a “chosen people” to justify new settlements in Jerusalem or territorial claims.

In their final communique, the bishops demanded that Israel accept UN resolutions calling for an end to its occupation of Arab lands, and told Israel it shouldn’t use the Bible to justify “injustices” against the Palestinians. While the bishops condemned terrorism and anti-Semitism, they laid much of the blame for the conflict squarely on Israel. They listed the occupation of Palestinian lands, Israel’s separation barrier with the West Bank, its military checkpoints, political prisoners, demolition of homes and disturbance of Palestinians’ socioeconomic lives as factors that have made life increasingly difficult for Palestinians. But will Israel heed this call?

Pope Benedict XVI, speaking the next day to mark the end of the meeting that also had two imams and a rabbi invited to speak, drove home the point in his homily “Peace is possible. Peace is urgent.” He said, “Peace is also the best remedy to avoid the emigration (of eastern Christians) from the Middle East.” Nearly every speaker emphasized that peace could be the road to prosperity.

The view of special guest Muhammad Al-Sammak, adviser to the mufti of Lebanon, who spoke in the synod, was that it was important for the Vatican to focus its attention on the problems of Christians. At the same time, he hoped that the initiative of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah on interfaith and intercultural dialogue would move the Arab and Islamic attention to this cause, under all its national, religious and human dimensions.

The synod’s call could not have been more urgent, especially with the recent Israeli Cabinet approval of a bill that would require new citizens to pledge a loyalty oath to a “Jewish and democratic” state. This move flies directly in the face of Israeli claims of being a multicultural state, which requires multiple national streams to enable their different populations to participate in forging a collective identity. Only when Israel has such a broad outlook can the aspirations of Jews, Christians and Muslims be realized.

Israel wants security. It wants Palestinians to recognize Israel as an independent state against which they have no territorial demands or aspirations. But the Palestinians can be persuaded to accept this only after their national aspirations are fulfilled exclusively in the confines of a new state. This means that justice for Palestinians is the best guarantee for Israel’s security and acceptability.


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