Assuming responsibility for peace

Assuming responsibility for peace

October 10, 2000 - The New York Times

Also printed in the International Herald Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and San Francisco Chronicle

After the dead have been buried, the sirens silenced, and the rubble swept from streets where rioters rampaged, what lessons will have been learned from these recent days of bloody confrontation between Palestinians and Israelis?

Two are essential: When mobs are incited to violence by Palestinian media and political and religious leaders, chaos ensues. And when Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation breaks down because Palestinian police and militiamen join in the mayhem and turn their guns on Israelis, the level of conflict crosses a terrible threshold, and the toll of suffering soars.

We grieve for the victims of the senseless violence that has erupted in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. We pray for the safe return of three Israeli soldiers kidnapped by Hezbollah marauders who stole across the international border from Lebanon.

We reel from the desecration and destruction on the Sabbath of Joseph’s Tomb, a holy place, by a Palestinian mob, and the murder of a pious Jew trying to save sacred Torah scrolls.

We yearn for the peace that will end for both peoples this cycle of needless pain.

With Israel and the Palestinians tantalizingly close to agreement in talks aimed at resolving their bitter conflict, these days of violence fomented by the Palestinians needn’t have happened. Innocent blood needn’t have been spilled.

It wouldn’t have - if Palestinian political and religious leaders had not deliberately overblown a visit by an Israeli politician to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site, and launched a furious campaign of attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers.

It wouldn’t have - if a sermon during Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa mosque hadn’t called on the Muslim faithful to “eradicate the Jews from Palestine,” provoking assaults on Jewish worshippers at the Western Wall and eliciting a defensive response by Israel.

It wouldn’t have - if the Palestinian Authority hadn’t emptied its schools, where Israelis’ status as the enemy is continually taught, so that children could be bused directly to confrontations with Israeli forces and into harm’s way.

It wouldn’t have - if Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat’s Fatah lieutenants in Gaza and the West Bank hadn’t ordered waves of armed strikes by paramilitary forces against Israeli targets.

It wouldn’t have - if Palestinian Authority radio and television hadn’t bombarded the airwaves day after day with calls to rise up against Israel.

Finally, the conflict that engulfed Israelis and Palestinians wouldn’t have happened if Chairman Arafat had assumed the responsibility of leadership and acted to calm rather than inflame his people.

In the end, there can be no other path for Israel and the Palestinians than the path of negotiated peace, based on compromise and the need to bring their conflict to an end.

Acceptable alternatives simply do not exist. For Palestinian and Arab leadership across the Middle East, there is no choice but to grasp the long- outstretched hand of Israel and assume responsibility for peace.

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