The following is by Dr. Peter Feinman, president of the Institute of History, Archaeology, and Education, PO Box 41, Purchase, NY 10577:
At this point in time, prospects for peace in the Middle East seem discouraging at best. Based on the pubic records, the peace process appears to be at a standstill with little being accomplished.
The most recent attempt at a comprehensive peace settlement ended in abysmal failure at the end of the 20th century resulting in even more violence. The challenge is to go beyond the traditional top-down diplomacy dependent on the whims and idiosyncrasies of individual leaders and build a more solid and enduring foundation for peace based on the people themselves. Consider these examples from the public record as a clue to a way to create such a foundation and to resolve the crisis:
1. “In Chaos, Palestinians Struggle for a Way Out,” James Bennett, NY Times, 7/15/04 A:1:
… a contest is under way [by the Palestinians] between … those who would destroy Israel and those who would live beside it.
2. “Isolated and Angry, Gaza Battles Itself, Too, James Bennett, NY Times, 7/16/04 A:12)
Mr. Dahlan … asked if Palestine wanted to go the way of Iraq or Libya. Palestinians could either build a model in Gaza, or embrace chaos and destruction…. Are we going to have war or peace?… It was time, he said, to choose [italics added].
3. “Why They Hate Us, Really,” Russell Mead, April, 2004, NY Times:
In his op-ed piece he claimed that the large majority of people he spoke to in various Arab countries were ready to tolerate the existence of the Jewish state of Israel. Exactly how representative that sample is of the entire population is, of course, open to question.
“Live from Gaza: A New View of Israel” (Daoud Kuttab, Institute of Modern Media, Al-Quds University, NY Times, 8/21/05):
The dramatic scenes from Gaza should lead us all to double our efforts to ensure that Palestinians can be free in an independent state alongside a safe and secure Israel.
1. “Can Militants Make Peace?” (Time Magazine, 2/6/06):
According to the article, Palestinians voted for Hamas not in support of its terrorist goals but to end domestic corruption. No mechanism was suggested for testing this hypothesis.
2. “Extreme Victory” (Newsweek, 2/6/06):
According to this article, Opinion polls say most Palestinians, even among those who voted for Hamas, want a decent peace deal and not endless conflict. Again no mechanism was suggested for testing this claim.
3. “Is Hamas Ready to Deal” (NY Times, 8/17/06) by Scott Atran, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and the University of Michigan:
In his column, Atran claims that Hamas is ready to be reasonable and end its all-or-nothing call for the destruction of Israel. Whether he was right then or, if so, still is at present, are separate issues.
4. “The Big Lie about the Middle East: Tell James Baker: Arab nations don’t care about the Palestinians,” Lisa Beyer, Time, December 18, 2006:
The Israelis and Palestinians aren’t going to make peace until they have brave, inspiring leaders, which they don’t, and when they are sick of fighting, which they aren’t.
1. “The Women’s Channel,” Walter Isaacson, Time, January 22, 2007:
If a suitable framework for a Palestinian state is reached, Abbas would then go to his people with a referendum: Do you want it or not? He is convinced that more than 70% would vote yes, thus marginalizing the Hamas resisters. Olmert would do the same, and probably get close to the same support….
2. “Anniversary of 1967 War Highlights Lasting Divisions,” Isabel Kershner, NY Times, June 6, 2007:
Another Palestinian writer, Bassem al-Nabris, a poet from Khan Yunis, in the Gaza Strip, wrote in the Arabic electronic newspaper Elaph that if there was a referendum in the Gaza Strip on the question of whether people would like the Israeli occupation to return, half the population would vote ‘yes.’ But in practice, he continued, I believe that the number of those in favor is at least 70 percent, if not more.’
3. “Her Jewish State,” Roger Cohen, NY Times Magazine, July 8, 2007:
Saeb Erekat, Palestinian Negotiations Department: There are 70-percent-plus of Palestinians who go with the two-state solution, even if nearly 50 percent of the Palestinians voted for Hamas…It’s time for decisions.
4. “Hamas Fighters Training Abroad, Israeli Army Says,” Steve Erlanger, NY Times, 8/28/07 A12:
Israel and Mr. Abbas have an opportunity the general [Moshe Kaplinksy, Israeli Army deputy chief of staff] said. It’s maybe even a new era. But the Palestinians have to decide where they’re going, if they want the situation as in Gaza or not.
1. “Support for 2-State Plan Erodes as Year Winds Down on Talks,” Isabel Kershner, NY Times, September 4, A10:
Palestinian public opinion polls show a clear majority still favors a two-state solution and the Fatah establishment remains committed to it, according to Khalil Shikaki, a well-respected political analyst in Ramallah.
Dr. Feinman’s narrative continues:
The pattern is clear. People at the ordinary level are tired of the violence. They would like to live normal lives. They often vote with their feet to leave the region since there is no prospect for peace at present. No one can impose peace in the Middle East. The violence will not cease because distant leaders mouth pretty words of peace in hollow tribunals and pass meaningless resolutions that serve no constructive purpose except to inflate the egos of organizations that have chosen to be irrelevant to the peace process. Hints, between-the-line innuendos, winks, lies, and differences in the words spoken in English for global consumption and those spoken in native tongues for home consumption will not bring about peace. There must be more to the peace process than accumulating frequent flyer miles or the desire for revenge.
It should be easy to confirm the validity of the claims that the peoples are ready to live in peace. The mechanism is called the vote. The time has come to let the voices of the people themselves be heard. No roadmap for peace is necessary if the people do not want to journey. No shuttle diplomacy is required if the people involved do not seek peace. Why should outsiders be held accountable for the peace if the peoples themselves won’t even go on record as wanting peace?
Can leaders lead where the people have yet to express a wish to go? What do the peoples want?
Do they want to push each other into the sea and/or transfer the other from the land? Are they willing to grant the other the same rights they demand for themselves? Do they want more of the same?
We need to create a mechanism to express the voice of the people trapped in silence. We need to create a mechanism for the voice of the people to be heard by all the world. We need to create a mechanism that witnesses the desire by the people for either peace or violence. The time is long overdue. The time for the voice of the people themselves to be heard is now. It is time for a bold action to break through the stale rhythm of clichéd public relations notices.
In the Bible there is the touching story of the Isaac and Ishmael reunited at the grave of their father Abraham … then again there is the story of Cain and Abel. Palestinians and Israelis vote. The choice is simple: Cain and Abel or Isaac and Ishmael? Vote. The world has been held hostage long enough.