Benjamin Netanyahu, the current prime minister of Israel, is an impediment to peace in the Middle East in my view. During periods of calm, he refuses to negotiate freely with all the Palestinians. He says he cannot negotiate with Hamas because they refuse to recognise the state of Israel. Yet, as the present troubles testify, Hamas represent the people of Gaza, and he is therefore bound to negotiate with them if there is to be a meaningful and lasting settlement. His refusal to negotiate with this wing of the Palestinians means he doesn't want a settlement of the problem during his premiership.
The siege of Gaza by Israel due to which all land, sea and air routes into this narrow strip of land are blocked creates " prison " conditions within it, and greatly interferes with all normal living conditions for the 1.8 million people affected by it. This continued siege gives rise to hatred starting at an early age, and support for Palestinians who want to destroy Israel by force. Therefore Netanyahu's policy towards Gaza is only serving to continue a very unstable situation, thereby ensuring continued suffering and bitterness for Palestinians down the generations.
If Netanyahu thinks there is no precedent in world history for negotiating with "terrorists" , he should talk to the British. In October 1921, both the then British prime minister, David Lloyd George, and Winston Churchill, sat down at a table with Michael Collins to negotiate what has become known as "The Irish Treaty". In November 1920, less than a year earlier, Collins and his men had scores of British agents operating in Dublin rounded up and killed, and the British press at the time labelled him " a terrorist and number one enemy of the country ". Collins didn't see himself as a terrorist but a freedom fighter who did not recognise Britain's right to rule Ireland.
In more recent times, the British cleverly used Sinn Fein to arrive at an understanding with the IRA in Northern Ireland that if significant concessions were made at the negotiating table in favour of the nationalist community then the violence would cease. At the present time, the agreements so reached on many issues, and embodied in the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, appears to be holding. The lesson to be learned from Ireland says: there is a good chance violence will stop if the underlying issues giving rise to the violence are addressed and fixed in a way that allows peace to prevail.
I do recognise Israel's right to defend itself. However, the corresponding right of the Palestinian people to a state operating alongside Israel is what has been neglected for the past 60 years or so. The onus therefore is on all parties with an interest in the region, peace and justice to deliver to the Palestinian people a viable functioning state they can call home. If such a state were delivered to the Palestinians, would there then be any support in a place like Gaza for people who want to launch rockets into Israel ? I don't think so, and if it did happen they would be quickly apprehended by Palestine's own security forces. The main stumbling block to peace appears to be Benjamin Netanyahu in that, judging by his performance to date, I cannot see him making the big moves necessary to deliver it.
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