The aim of these recommendations is to advise world leaders of what needs to be done or changed if the dream of regional peace is to be realized in the near future. It is a plea for understanding, engagement and a rejection of practices which have already failed so many times before.
If the time for peace is in fact upon us, these recommendations must be taken into account. Failure to do so will only result in more death and violence on our Israeli-Palestinian part – and more wasted time on your own.
1. Stop Politicizing Aid to Gaza
For nearly two years the world has watched while Gazans suffer and starve under the weight of Israel’s siege. They have been denied every basic right and nearly every basic necessity in an internationally sanctioned collective punishment on one of the world’s youngest, poorest and most densely huddled populations only for the sin of having voted democratically.
Even after the bombs have stopped devastating the Gaza Strip, the siege continues. Despite the fact that every window in the Strip was shattered, glass or plastic are not allowed in to make repairs as the cold winter months set in.
Food trickles through, but never enough - and then only what is allowed. Not only our lives, and our borders and the suitability of our leaders are determined by Israel, even our diets have been under their control, with devastating consequences.
Gaza needs help now, today, and lots of it. The decision to exclude segments of the Palestinian society from receiving or distributing aid will only result in further chaos and despair. For those interested in peace, these are two ingredients will surely spoil to the recipe.
For those who think this first recommendation is naïve, enjoy the second.
2. Openly Support the Creation and Fruition of a National Unity Government
It is not only the million and a half lives and homes which must be rebuilt in the wake of Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip – there is the unity and cohesiveness of our fractured Palestinian leadership which must also be healed. Without doing so, the prospects for peace are non-existent.
When Hamas is marginalized from what is their democratic right, they are empowered to play spoiler – to battle from the opposition with rhetoric rather than deeds. The Authority that is approved of by the international community has little credibility within Palestine under such circumstances, and therefore little or no power to move forward in the peace process.
The exclusion of Hamas and the rejection of the national unity government which they agreed to, will one day be remembered as the greatest error and hypocrisy of western involvement in this conflict – and there are many errors from which to choose from. Not only did it discredit the great ‘project of democratization’ throughout the Middle East, but it missed a vital opportunity to move this conflict’s resolution in the right direction.
Allowing Hamas their place in the government is not a reward. The burden of governing, within a parliamentary system such as in Palestine, could have brought Hamas into the mainstream. They might have learned that policy making and implementation are harder than mere opposition, and that they require a sort of compromise and pragmatism which is currently not expected of the organization.
The world needs to understand that there will be no useful or relevant peace process within the context of a divided Palestine. It is time now to make it clear to Palestinians that a unity government will be accepted rather than punished if it agrees to a ceasefire with Israel which will allow for real negotiations to take place. Pretending that Palestine can at once be divided and undertaking negotiations, will only waste more of everyone’s time.
3. Hold Israel to Account for its Violations of the Road Map
It has recently been unveiled that Israel is planning to build nearly 80,000 new housing units inside of the occupied Palestinian Territories. In spite of this, the world wants us to continue sitting down at the negotiating table as if nothing is wrong.
We have watched this movie before, and I can tell you how it ends: the negotiations will go nowhere, and this lack of progress will continue to undermine the only leaders with whom negotiations are allowed. Meanwhile, the ‘facts on the ground’ in terms of settlements, walls and the infrastructure needed to support them, continue to grow – ensuring that the next time we sit down to negotiate, it will be for even less of our land.
Palestinians have been sanctioned the international community – severely – for not meeting their expectations under the Road Map. If there is never going to be any even-handedness in terms of punishing unmet commitments on both sides, how can we be expected to negotiate in good faith? How can we continue to ‘build Israeli confidence’ while our own is eviscerated with each new action they take?
There has been a belief, and a dangerous one, that, because Israel has all of the hard power, it is their needs and wants which should supersede our rights. The myth has resulted in a failed strategy, in which the international community throws their eggs into one basket - into ‘their guy in Palestine’ who can force a ‘piece of peace’ down all of our throats. The belief that such a figure exists is absurd; and the creation and bolstering of such figures has only resulted in their being discredited locally.
It is time for a new strategy – a realistic one for once.