Keys to peace

  • November 28, 2012

As this editorial is being written, the guns are silent in Israel and Gaza. But for how long? Hours, days, weeks? Maybe months, at best?

There is a ceasefire but no peace. Hamas has stopped firing rockets and Israel has stopped launching missiles — for now. A full-scale Israeli invasion of Gaza has been averted and hundreds of lives, mostly Palestinian, have been spared. But there is little expectation of it lasting.

The underlying issues remain unresolved and trigger fingers are still being pointed by hawkish governments in Gaza and Israel. So the land of Christ’s birth could again shudder beneath rockets and missiles at any moment.

At the height of the most recent bloodshed, Pope Benedict appealed for peace. “Hatred and violence are not the solution to these problems,” he said. “I encourage both parties to make courageous decisions in favour of peace and to bring an end to a dispute which has negative repercussions throughout the whole of the Middle East.”

Earlier this year the Pope released the apostolic exhortation Ecclessia in Medio Oriente, which he drafted following the 2010 Synod for the Middle East. It contained a call for an enduring peace based on dialogue, respect, equality, tolerance and forgiveness. It was vital, he said, to not only alleviate suffering in the region but to root out the causes of that suffering. For that to occur, peace is essential.

Bringing lasting peace to the region does not require more international summits and another plan. The framework for peace in the Holy Land already exists. It has been advocated in various forms for years as that “two-state solution” — creating an independent, sovereign Palestinian state the respects Israel’s existence and right to security. But what’s consistently been lacking is a political will and public unanimity, on both sides, to make it happen.

Instead, Israelis and Palestinians are trapped in a cycle of violence that achieves nothing but the perpetuation of violence. Drones, suicide bombers, assassins, car bombs, rockets, missiles . . . anything but dialogue. The exchanges are seldom proportional. Nations have a duty to protect their citizens. But in defending its population from the recent round of morally indefensible rocket attacks, Israel killed approximately 140 Palestinians, including many women and children, while suffering fewer than 10 deaths. That disproportion acts as a recruitment poster for Hamas and makes an already distant peace even more elusive.

Palestinians won’t achieve their objectives through suicide bombers or rocket launches; nor will Israel succeed by assassinating Hamas leaders or, when provoked, raining missiles on Gaza towns. Peace, the type that is true and lasting, requires both sides to first lower their weapons but they must also act courageously to build a new relationship based on respect, dignity and forgiveness.

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