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Ray Hanania
Ray Hanania
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Middle East Peace Requires Real Courage

Comment

On the eve of a long-hoped-for meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, members of the Hamas terrorist organization killed four members of the Israeli terrorist settler movement.

The murders of the four settlers took place at Kiryat Arba in the West Bank, where settlers have celebrated the memory of Baruch Goldstein, the American Jewish mass murderer who killed 29 Palestinians while they were praying at the Hebron Mosque.

This act of terror is more than just a reminder that violence takes place on both sides - yes, Israel settlers kill Palestinians, too. It should remind us of the objective of extremist Palestinians and extremists Israelis, which is to block the peace process.

The extremists have been encouraged by Netanyahu, who has been hesitant to give up his drive to take all of the land of the Palestinians in the West Bank and convert it into illegal Israeli settlements. He has refused to really freeze settlement expansion, and despite a minor hold on some insignificant "outposts," the settlements continue to expand with new construction and more settlers.

Abbas has been trying his best to embrace peace, demanding only that Israel stop expelling Palestinian homeowners from East Jerusalem, which is located in the Israeli occupied West Bank and is a Palestinian majority. Israel has been building homes for settlers in East Jerusalem while demolishing the homes of Palestinian families there for the past decade.

The problem facing both Netanyahu and Abbas is a political problem. And the question is: Do they have the courage to do the right thing? Do they have the courage to stand up to the fanatics in their own community and confront the growing anger from the moderates who are pulled apart by violence, failure and the actions of the other side?

We know what the peace agreement is. Two states. Israel closes some settlements and gives the Palestinian lands in Israel in exchange for the illegal settlements that it keeps.

East Jerusalem is divided not by a wall but by sovereignty, with people able to travel throughout the Holy City. The Jewish section falls under Israeli control, and the Palestinian sections, three quarters of the city, come under Palestinian control.

The Palestinian refugees are addressed with real options, not false promises of returning to lands they will never see. Relocation to the Palestinian state. A fund to support their development. An apology and acknowledgement from Israel for that country's role in intentionally taking their homes, lands and destroying their villages in 1948 — an event that took place more than 62 years ago.

Most importantly, an internationally recognized border is drawn between Palestine and Israel that for the first time in history gives Palestine the power of international law if Israel breaks its agreement. Sovereignty gives Palestinians a power they have never had. They have always been the outcast in every international debate about their situation. Their non-sovereignty status has allowed Israel to do all the talking and direct all the action. Israel's violence has been defined as "defense," while Palestinian violence has always been defined as "terrorism."

A peace accord would change the power balance to fairness.

Palestine could continue to prosecute crimes, as could Israel. Palestine could continue to push for more humanitarian treatment of Palestinians seeking to be compensated for lost lands and homes taken by Israel, and so could Jews seeking to be compensated for lost lands and homes in the Arab world.

But if Netanyahu has the courage to stand up to the fanatics in Israel who are beating the drums of hatred and rejection, he could go down as one of the most influential Jewish leaders in modern history.

If Abbas can push ahead and let go of Palestinian injured ego and pride, he could become the most important Palestinian leader, eclipsing the Hamas terrorist organization that claims power only on the basis of its ability to murder Israeli settlers and civilians and to threaten violence.

In peace, Hamas would slowly disappear. Its power would vanish. It is only in conflict that Hamas has power. And, it is only in rejection that the Israeli settler fanatics — who murder innocent Palestinians all the time without even a mention in the mainstream American news media — find power. The settlers would disappear as a violent extremist force, too. And that is good for Israeli politics.

Make the peace now. Failure means a future of far more violence than what we have witnessed over the past six months. It's a simple choice. Peace — or, violence.

To find out more about Ray Hanania, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.

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