Israel needs to back up promises with action

Israel made a bold step toward peaceful coexistence with Palestinians this week when the Israeli government declared it would accept most aspects of the ‘Road Map’ for peace in the Middle East, recently proposed by the Bush administration. These bold declarations now have to be followed by equally bold actions.

Israel’s Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said at a meeting of the Likud Party, “it is not possible to continue holding three and a half million people under occupation” — a statement that would seem to recognize the existence of a Palestinian state.

Sharon further said that he does “not think that it is right to control Bethlehem and Ramallah,” calling for a restructuring of the Israeli control of these areas, if not its complete removal.

These are goals the Palestinians have been pursuing for years, and, if these promises were to come true, it would be the biggest step to peaceful coexistence for many years.

Unfortunately, in the same instance, Sharon also declared that more Jewish settlements are to be built.

To get national support for the peace plan, he told his critics “It certainly allows the unlimited building (of settlements) for your children and grandchildren, and I hope even for your great-grandchildren.” Such a statement seems to signify Israeli intent to further expand into areas Palestinians regard as their territory.

It is hoped that the opportunity to end more than 50 years of bitter feuds will be grasped. Enough people have died in this fight to own land, roughly the size of New Jersey, that is mostly desert territory. Now, these differences have to be raised from an “I-killed-your-brother-because-you-killed-mine” attitude to a logical discussion with concessions that are fair to both sides.

This will be a difficult step, as a lot of territories are culturally important to both factions, and many families living there have a strong attachment to the area.

Both sides have to understand, though, that they either have to accept such concessions or exist in the state of war that has plagued the area for most of the last 50 years.

Water rights and freedom of movement will also have to be granted to allow Palestine to ensure its economic freedom, but these are all problems that have to be resolved in the long term.

For now, the path taken promising, but only actions that match the rhetoric will signify if the differences can finally be resolved.