Israeli officials toned down their rhetoric Monday. Before, talk coming out of Israel sounded more like talks for conflict than talks for peace. Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said last week that assassinating democratically elected leader Yasser Arafat was “one of the options” along with exiling him and isolating him in his headquarters.
Did anyone find the reference to killing Arafat a little violent? Yes, it seemed the entire world and even the United States found open talk about assassinating a Palestinian leader unacceptable. The United Nations denounced such actions and the Palestinian people took to the streets of Gaza by the thousands to protest the killing of a Palestinian leader.
The situation in Israel looks pretty bleak. Innocent civilians on both sides of the “road map” are being killed daily by acts of violence. Israel openly stating that assassination is an acceptable means to an end is a wrong move if long-term peace and stability are the goals for both Israelis and Palestinians.
Apart from there being no due process in assassinating a human being it also strips away basic human rights-like the right to a fair trial. Assassination of a political figure will only lead to more bloodshed, as the rest of the world realized when they condemned the talk of such action.
In addition, the idea of exiling Arafat from Israel is more symbolic than we realize.
Thousands of Palestinians are exiled from their lands and homes. Many are not allowed the right to return to Israel even when United Nations charters guarantees the right of refugees to return. Palestinians are stateless and lucky to be granted citizenship and equal rights in other countries.
The exile of Arafat is symbolic because, for many Palestinians he not only represents himself, but the entire Palestinian struggle. But not all Palestinians like Arafat. Many actually find him an obstacle to peace. Even dissenters of Arafat will see his exile as a representation of Palestinian discrimination and they will relive their struggle through his exile.
While Arafat may be a leader who many dislike, he will become a symbol of admiration and perseverance if exiled. His power will grow as well as support for him. If this happens, then what is the point of his exile?
We must understand the struggles of both Palestinians and Israelis because their peaceful co-existence will not only help produce stability in the Middle East but it will also reshape how the U.S. is perceived in that region. Palestinians must elect a leader who will bring them peace and choose diplomacy over violence. Israelis must work with and not against this leader and respect that this Palestinian leader is democratically elected.
If the U.S. wants to appear as a fair arbitrator of peace it must truly encourage peaceful co-existence.
Bottom line is that both Palestinians and Israelis want security and peace. For this to be accomplished, we must not get side-tracked and veer off the road map produced by the United States and other United Nation’s members. The ultimate goal should be peace.
The U.S. plays an enormous role in shaping the outcome of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The road map was a good foundation but talk is not enough to end centuries of violence. Killing people is not a means to an end and exiling or isolating a political figure only garners more public attention. The road to long-term peace lies in patience and not more violence.
Aya Batrawy is a junior majoring in mass communication and history. firstname.lastname@example.org