I hate not being able to solve a math problem. I can’t stand not knowing the answer to a question. I’m proactive about it though; if I know my search is hopeless, I’ll just make sure I don’t start it. That’s why since the day I became interested in foreign policy, I have done my best to avoid talking about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It’s one of those prisoner’s dilemma situations where both sides refuse to trust one another. Since I learned about the situation in Israel in middle school I have believed that there is no solution short of a mass genocide that utterly destroys one, or both of the two sides.
Finally, though, the sun has broken through the clouds over the Gaza Strip. For the first time in decades, it seems as if peace in the Middle East is possible. At last, one side has taken the true moral high ground and agreed to surrender something to his opponent in a search for peace.
Ariel Sharon has proposed to pull the 8,000 Jewish settlers out of the Gaza Strip and withdraw troops out of a territory populated by 1.3 million Palestinians. The first step is about to be taken in a path that shall prove to the world that Israel is willing to rise above the back-and-forth killings that have poisoned the relationship between Israelis and Palestinians for generations.
This should be a landmark decision; the first step in bringing peace to a land where suicide bombings and retaliatory strikes are a regular occurrence. Yet, with every silver lining comes a black cloud. This one’s called pride.
Some of the 8,000 settlers in Gaza are threatening to refuse to leave. Despite being offered between $200,000-$300,000 dollars per family, their pride is overcoming their common sense. Instead of uniting as Israelis and doing what would be best for the safety of their countrymen, they choose to protest Sharon’s plan.
The fact is that since the United Nations partitioned Israel after the end of the World War II, the tension between Arabs and Jews has done nothing but escalate. This is highly due to both sides refusing to compromise and the way that they consider their opposition to be morally uprooted to the point where they are not capable of diplomatic negotiations.
For example, some right-wing extremists compare this move by Sharon to when Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon a few years ago. They claim this emboldened Hezbollah. They now say that removing settlers from the Gaza Strip will encourage Palestinian terrorists. This logic basically concludes that the Palestinian people are so hopelessly hateful of Jews that they are incapable of recognizing that this would be the first step toward Israel allowing them to become an autonomous entity.
In Gaza, hatred for Palestinians seems to prevent what should be a logical decision. Rabbi Dov Lior, chairman of the Yesha Council, one of the groups most adamantly against Sharon’s plan, is the same Rabbi who ruled it in accordance with Jewish law for Israeli Defense Forces to kill innocent civilians. Maariv International quoted him on May 19 saying that “the law of our Torah is to have mercy on our soldiers and to save them. This is the real moral behind Israel’s Torah and we must not feel guilty due to foreign morals.” Condoning the murder of civilians through a holy text places Lior on the same moral level as the worst of the terrorists that he hates. If the Yesha Council is truly led by a rabbi who condones the murder of civilians, then maybe the problem in Gaza isn’t the Palestinians at all.
On a more national level, the same rightists who go on about how Sharon’s plan for disengagement shall tear the nation of Israel apart are the ones who split the people’s opinions by refusing to look past their nationalistic egos. They are the ones who, through their constant refusal to cooperate, make it so hard for Sharon and the Israeli government to get anything done.
While the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict dictates that a resolution will take a long time to find, it’s time for someone to finally do something that could lead to peace. Ariel Sharon has chosen to attempt just that by relocating 8,000 people out of a hostile environment full of over a million Arabs. Instead of cursing his name, the right wing of Israel should thank him for biting the bullet figuratively so that none of their countrymen have to do it literally.
-The writer, a sophomore majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet