Palestinian official, Jewish leader present perspectives on Middle East peace

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Both Palestinian and Israeli points of view were expressed in two separate events at the Elliott School of International Affairs Wednesday night.

Nabil Abuznaid, the charge d’affaires at the Mission of the Palestinian Liberation Organization in D.C., spoke at the International Affairs Society on the issue of an Israeli-Palestinian peace. Earlier in the evening, the Zionist Organization of America countered with a speech from Mitchell Bard, director of the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise, a nonprofit organization that advocates for a strong U.S.-Israeli relationship.

In his lecture, Abuznaid discussed the necessary steps that Israelis and Palestinians must take to establish peace. Abuznaid said the city of Jerusalem is a major conflict of interest between the Israelis and Palestinians, and it is unfair that Israelis have prevented Palestinians from living there.

“Jerusalem is the holiest site to Muslims all over the world and it is not acceptable that one of the public places remains in the hands of the Israelis,” he said.

Abuznaid said that he hopes Israelis can eventually view Palestinians as their equals and not as their counterparts. He said that with the removal of Israeli troops in Palestine, the two groups can live side by side as two separate states, “hopefully sooner than later.”

Junior Joshua Lasky, the academic coordinator of the International Affairs Society, said that Abuznaid served as “an effective counterpoint” to Rafael Harpaz, an official from the Israeli Embassy the group hosted earlier this semester.

“The IAS has tried to show both sides of the issue fairly and equally and I think we succeeded in that respect,” Lasky said.

In his address, Bard said there are significant difference between the Palestinians and Israelis, but he said peace in the Middle East is possible.

“I think there is likely to be peace, not perfect peace the way we would all like to see, but a form of peace where Israel is able to live with its neighbors,” Bard said. “History shows it is possible to make peace. With your help, hopefully sooner than later.”

He said this agreement would likely mean an official border where a security fence currently exists, and a division of Jerusalem. Much of Eastern Jerusalem would become Palestinian territory if the city was divided, he said.

Although Israelis, “desperately crave peace,” the Palestinians have not made significant attempts to compromise with the Jewish state, he said.

Bard referenced former Palestinian leader Yasar Arafat’s actions in 2001, when despite Israel’s concessions, Arafat would not make an agreement.

Events like these and 4,000 missiles that have been targeted at Israel since Palestinians inhabited the Gaza Strip have made Israel less likely to make concessions, he said.

Bard said, “When Israelis see the experiment gone awry, is it any wonder that they now have a reluctance to respond to cries form the Palestinians to end the occupation?”

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