Tour of the Holy Land - Part V : 'We want peace'
On Sunday, January 8, a truck driven by a Palestinian ran over a group of Israeli soldiers in Jerusalem, Israel, killing four people and wounding 15 others. Israeli police and rescue services said that the incident was one of the deadliest attacks of a more than yearlong campaign of violence from the Palestinians.
But, the current aggression between the Israelis and the Palestinians goes back to 1947-48 when the Jewish state of Israel was created by the United Nations in a region known as Palestine in the Middle East.
Since then, there seems to be no end to the belligerence between the two sides, bearing in mind that the fundamental flame of the bellicosity is the Palestinians' refusal to recognise the sovereign state of Israel and Israel's claim to its right to exist as a Jewish state.
And recently, Emmanuel Nahshon and another high-ranking official, who requested not to be named or photographed, met at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs with eight Caribbean journalists to discuss the Israeli Palestinian conflict, mainly.
READY FOR PEACE
Nahshon is the ministry's spokesperson and the head of the press bureau. The journalists were on a six-day sensitisation tour of Israel, and we were told that the Israelis want to make progress with the Palestinians.
"We want peace. We know peace comes with compromises, with prices. We need to pay prices, to give up certain things to have peace. We are ready for peace," Nahshon said. Israel is ready to give up some of its settlements in Palestinian designated areas, he said, in what he a called a "serious territorial compromise".
Yet, the peace that the Israelis claim they want may not be attained anytime soon because the conflict is also centred on religious issues - the status of Old Jerusalem. "This is the holiest place in the world, and it may be the most complex place in the world. This is why the history of the Jewish people developed, where the history of Christianity was born, and an extremely important place for Islam," Nahshon said.
He said that Israel has not seen any indication from the Palestinians that they, too, are ready for peace. All, he said, they are getting are terror and violence towards Israeli initiatives as the Arabs believe that where Israel is located belongs to Islam, hence their refusal to accept Israel as a legitimate state.
The Palestinians have also refused to talk with Israel, Nahshon said. Instead, they are reaching out to other countries to seek help for a Palestinian state. That will not work, he said. The only way is by direct talks between the two sides. The Israelis are recommending, through negotiations, a two-stage solution, one for the Palestinians, the other for the Israelis.
Aside from the fundamental cause of the conflict, there are other issues that are keeping the flames from subsiding, issues such as the question of settlements (who is to live where); the question of Palestinian refugees wandering all over the Arab world; and what will happen to them if peace is not achieved.
Peace may not be attainable also because Nahshon said, Palestinian society is fragmented. There is no one group or party that is in charge, despite the existence of the Palestinian authority. There is no one in control of the situation, no one to talk to, he said.
In addition, according to Nahshon, the Palestinians have wasted much international assistance given to them to build their state institutions. Moreover, he said international assistance to the Palestinians is a "curse" as it creates a "spirit of dependency". In essence, he also said, they are in a situation in which the creation of a Palestinian state would not be viable.
And then the issue got wider and more complex. "We cannot have peace with the Palestinians, by the way, if we do not have normalisation with the countries in the region, the Arab states," Nahshon said.