Thursday, October 11, 2007

Take a chance on peace, Mr. Abbas

Ray Hanania

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert reopened the door to a peace accord with the Palestinians and was immediately attacked by extremists in his government. But he was also attacked by extremists leading the illegal government in the Gaza Strip, which has been reoccupied by Hamas extremists.
Olmert will, reportedly, propose sharing Arab East Jerusalem, a city lost to Israel when Jordan's military collapsed along with the incompetent armies of Egypt and Syria in a confrontation with Israeli forces that the Arabs provoked and Israel exploited in June 1967. The proposal will be made at an upcoming peace conference that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to attend.
Abbas has come under a barrage of renewed attacks from both pro-Hamas activists in the Gaza Strip and Arab and Palestinian "journalists" in the West who oppose compromise with Israel but long ago compromised their journalistic principles to become advocates for extremists.
Olmert was excoriated in a tirade by former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who helped kill Palestinian-Israeli negotiations in the 1990s, denying both Palestinians and Israelis the peace most seek.
And it was the murder of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 by an anti-peace extremist that sealed the fate of the peace process - that and a series of Hamas terrorist suicide bombings which intentionally targeted innocent Israeli civilians and children.
ONCE AGAIN, Palestinians are faced with a difficult choice. Do they continue to embrace 60-year old principles and demand the impossible - to return to land of the pre-1948 years? Or do they wake up and recognize that their only real chance for peace and a Palestinian state is to accept their own failures? The brutal truth is that Israel's existence - which Palestinians reject - has much to do with their own failed policies and their own extremist acts.
More importantly, are Palestinians finally willing to stop lying to the Palestinian refugees and to their descendants - to acknowledge the truth that even though the Palestinians may have a legal right under international law to return to their lands taken in 1948, 60 years of continued conflict and failed Arab leadership has made the enforcement of that dream unrealistic?
Should we not admit to the refugees that policies of rejection built on exploiting their suffering have failed, and that the only option is to now accept the inevitable: that the most we can expect from Israel is an apology, the return of some refugees through negotiations, compensation, and resettlement in a Palestinian state?
Isn't the reality of living their lives in a Palestinian state greater than the unrealistic dream of turning back the clock to a time when the Arab leadership was no better than it is today?
Is it worth it to remain in the squalor and festering hatred of the refugee camps, driven on by extremists whose only path is continued sacrifice, suicide terror and self-imposed oppression?
I know that most Palestinians are moderates who fear the violent threats from groups like Hamas and other extremists (who would just as soon murder another Palestinian as they would any Jew). But we cannot allow those fanatics to control our lives. Their policies have pushed us to where we are. If we live in Bantustans, we helped create them through rejection and an absence of strategic policies of national salvation.
ABBAS SHOULD immediately embrace Olmert's proposals and send a clear message that he supports compromise based on negotiations and is dedicated to eradicating the extremists like the Hamas terrorists.
Let the negotiations begin. Maybe, just maybe, Abbas can use the leverage given to him by the expulsion of the illegitimate and oppressive Hamas "government" from the Palestine National Authority.
Let Abbas define a true compromise that will stop the slow but steady erasure of Palestinian identity, a Palestinian nation that is being swallowed up by a land expansionism driven by Israeli extremists who exploit Palestinian rejectionism, and the transformation of a secular Democratic Palestinian people into an oppressive religious fanaticism.
Although the negotiations may not bring about a truly fair division of Palestine and Israel, long-term peace will help counterbalance the sacrifices Palestinians have made since 1948.
Two states can exist side by side, and they can share Jerusalem. And, one day, Jews will be able to live and work in Palestine, and citizens of Palestine will be able to live and work in Israel.
That is a dream worth fighting for.
The writer is an award-winning Palestinian columnist and author.

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