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Stopping Middle East Violence Now and Forever
Publication date: 2002-04-30

The Crown Prince Abdullah's talks with President Bush have inspired President Bush to make more vigorous efforts to resolve the Middle East crisis. An attempt is being made to lift the Israeli siege of Yasser Arafat's office in Ramallah. But the cycle of retaliatory attacks continues yielding more victims on both sides.

In spite of the crisis drawing world attention from every side, there is still no clear understanding of the reasons for continuation of violence.

The Israelis say they fight Palestinian "terrorism", and the Palestinians say they fight the Israeli "occupation", both sides pointing their fingers at corpses to substantiate their claims.

But like in any on-going fight there are two problems to be solved:

  1. to stop the fighting and
  2. to resolve the dispute which has caused the fight by peaceful means.

President Bush sees the problem in Yasser Arafat. If Yasser Arafat would stop Palestinian "terrorism", the Israelis would not have to engage in anti-terror operations, and the parties could proceed to a peace process. Such is the reasoning of President Bush.

President Bush now understands that Yasser Arafat has at least to be released from the Israeli arrest to enable him to "stop terrorism". So, attempts are being made to persuade the Israelis to lift their siege in Ramallah.

The siege in Ramallah is part of the conflict, and lifting it is a positive step.

But seeing the conflict in terms of "terrorism" and "occupation", or "Sharon v Arafat" hides the primary cause of the dispute. And without dealing with this cause it will be impossible not only to achieve a permanent resolution of the dispute, but even to stop the current violence.

In fact both "terrorism" and "occupation" are not the primary causes of the dispute, but are the consequences of the primary cause. They are just the blows exchanged by the fighters - each blow from one side results in a counter blow from the other, but the cause of the fight lies elsewhere.

And while Ariel Sharon is in command of the Israeli Army, Yasser Arafat is not in command of the "terrorists". Yasser Arafat was in command of the Palestinian Militia, before the Israelis have effectively dismantled the Palestinian Authority. But it is not the Militia, who engage in "terrorism".

Since the Israelis justify their occupation of the Palestinian territories and military activities by the need to protect themselves, one could assume, that, if "terrorism" stops, there would be no reason for further occupation of the post-1967 territories, and for the military activities against the Palestinians.

So, what are the causes of "terrorism"?

I heard an Israeli spokesman justifying the Israeli actions against the Palestinians saying, "Palestinian terrorism did not start in 1967, it existed before that". This is true. But he did not say what was the cause of that "terrorism".

Yes. The primary cause of the dispute goes back to 1948.

In 1948 the Jewish settlers expelled some Arabs from their houses, and the expelled Arabs became refugees.

Ever since their expulsion, the Arab refugees tried to regain their properties and wanted to drive away the Israelis and to destroy the state of Israel.

A number of military style organisations sprang up to fight for the Palestinian cause.

In 1967 the Israelis occupied further Arab territories, and forcing the Israeli withdrawal from these territories, became the second cause of "terrorism".

The present Israeli incursion accompanied by destruction of Palestinian properties and killings of Palestinians became the third cause of "terrorism" - revenge for the Israeli actions.

Thus today there are 3 distinct causes of Palestinian "terrorism":

  1. Expulsion of the Palestinians by the Israelis in 1948.
  2. Occupation by the Israelis of the territories from 1967 onward.
  3. Damage and loss caused to the Palestinians by the present Israeli military actions.
If all these causes are removed, then there will be no justification for any hostilities by the Palestinians towards the Israelis.

Removal of only some of the causes, will not, however, stop Palestinian "terrorism" and the whole "triple cause" cycle will be revived1.

The removal of these causes can proceed as follows:

  1. In those cases where it is practical to return the Palestinian properties to their original owners this should be done. Otherwise a fair monetary compensation should be paid to the original owners or their successors in title. This will be an administrative operation which can take some time, and it can only be feasible when the present on-going hostilities are at least suspended.
    To stop the present "terrorism" resulting from this cause now, it would be sufficient to make a credible statement that the Israelis and the American government acknowledge that the Palestinian refugees have a valid claim in respect of the properties from which they were expelled, and that, in those cases where it is practicable their properties will be returned to them, or a fair monetary compensation will be paid to the original owners or their successors in title. Once those who lost their properties in 1948 have a practical possibility of recovering their properties, or being financially compensated for their loss, they will have no reason to indulge in any hostile acts.
  2. The second cause of "terrorism" can be removed by withdrawal of the Israelis from the territories occupied by them from 1967 onward.
    Again to stop acts of terrorism immediately it will be enough to make a credible declaration that such withdrawal will begin at a set date and time and will be completed by a set date and time.
  3. The third cause of "terrorism" can be removed by payment of compensation to the Palestinians for the damage and loss caused by the present Israeli military actions.
    Again to stop acts of terrorism immediately it will be enough to make a credible declaration that the damage caused by the Israeli activities will be assessed and a fair compensation will be paid to the Palestinians for the damage caused.

Thus to suspend2 Palestinian "terrorism" a credible declaration must be made that the above 3 causes of terrorism will be dealt with as soon as practically possible, and, as all the Palestinian grievances can be resolved by peaceful means, no further acts of terror will be justifiable.

This declaration must be addressed to all the Palestinians, regardless of where they happen to be, and not just to Yasser Arafat, because, while Yasser Arafat's popularity has been greatly increased by the present Israeli hostility towards him, there are many Palestinians, and, especially, those who are likely to engage in "terrorism", who do not accept the authority of Yasser Arafat, but follow other Palestinian leaders.

Until all the Palestinians are assured that all the injustices, which they seek to redress by violent means will be redressed by peaceful means, there is no prospect of stopping Palestinian "terrorism".

And, as long as Palestinian "terrorism" continues, the Israeli will continue with their military activities, and the cycle of violence will persist with the prospect of spreading outside of the area and endangering peace and security around the world.


Notes:

1) The Oslo agreements failed because they did not to remove all the causes of the conflict, but attempted a partial, compromise solution.

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2) I used the word 'suspend', rather than 'stop', in the above paragraph, because no matter how credible declarations will be, declarations alone can only achieve a 'suspension' of "terrorism" until either the declarations are implemented, in which case the 'suspension' will become a 'permanent cessation', or, the declarations will turn out to be empty promises, in which case "terrorism" will break out again and with a vengeance.

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