Though the mood was somber and respectful Monday night as 100 audience members filled the meeting room of the Baptist Collegiate ministries Monday to hear Israeli Foreign Ministry Spokesman Mark Regev speak, a police officer stood in the corner as a constant reminder of the volatility of the subject at hand.
“We had a difficult summer in Israel and Lebanon. There was a war,” he said. “Too many good people were killed on both sides.”
This became the subject of much of the discussion as Regev stressed compromise in the combat-ridden territories of the West Bank and in Lebanon. He emphasized that the ultimate solution to violence lay not in extremism but a willingness to cooperate from both sides.
“Somehow, both peoples, both communities must draw a line and share this small piece of land,” he said. “Both peoples give up part of their historic homeland and agree that we both want to compromise so that there can be peace and stability for future generations.”
According to Regev, much of the blame for the violence lies with Hamas on the West Bank and in Gaza. He also blamed Hezbollah for the war with Lebanon.
“Why was there a war? The Israeli people didn’t want a war. The Lebanese didn’t want a war,” he said. “The answer is clear, you have an extremist group called Hezbollah that doesn’t represent anyone but its own extreme agenda that started a conflict that wasn’t good for Lebanon, and wasn’t good for anyone.”
Senior business major Andre – who said he was in Lebanon during the war and didn’t want his last name printed – disagreed, saying that he felt much of the blame for the war lay with Israel.
He also pointed to Israel’s continued unwillingness to assist humanitarian efforts as possibly fueling extremist discontent while strengthening Hezbollah’s foothold in the south of Lebanon.
“How can I as a Lebanese ask Hezbollah to disarm?” he said. “It has been proven by this war and the war in Iraq. An international army or a foreign army will not disarm a local army. You cannot disarm a people. Only the people can disarm a people.
“The only way we as Lebanese people can ask them to disarm is if Israel cooperates.”
Regev defended his country’s actions in Lebanon, saying that Israel dropped pamphlets warning civilians to leave combat areas before attacking and alluded to concessions that his country had made in the past not only in Lebanon but on the West Bank.
He pointed to partition as the ultimate solution.
Gamal Nassar, a Palestinian junior majoring in geography, agrees that compromise is the only solution but called the Palestinian territories disjointed and likened them to rooms in a house.
“It’s as if someone comes into your house,” he said. “They take the whole house and give you a bedroom and the bathroom but take the hallway between.”
Nassar continued and reflected the reoccurring theme of the night when he said, “You have to change the atmosphere and stop the violence on both sides. Then, maybe after a generation or two you can probably come down to some sort of calm settlement.”