Steps for peace

Steps for peace

Over a table of Passover pastries and coffee at Rodef Shalom Tuesday, Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, the Gazan Physician who lost three of his daughters to an errant Israeli tank shell during the fighting there in January, explained to his Pittsburgh guests what he believes is necessary to achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
It’s such a simple formula on its face: Communicate with and respect each other; refrain from placing blame; empower women, interact whenever possible — basically seeing the humanity in each other’s faces.
We are moved beyond words that, after such a tragic experience in his life, this 53-year-old Gazan obstetrician can still believe peace is possible.
If he can, so can we.
Yet for the 60 years of Israeli independence, Abuelaish’s formula still hasn’t worked. We won’t speculate here as to why; we’ll respect Dr. Abuelaish’s wishes and not affix blame.
But we will suggest that his formula is incomplete.
Here are some added steps:
• Marginalize extremists. Fringe parties in Israel and terrorists in Palestinian areas cannot be allowed to derail the peace process if the majorities on both sides want it. In Israel’s case that means raising the percentage of the vote a small party needs to gain representation in the Knesset; for the Palestinians it means backing leaders who have not enshrined Israel’s destruction in its platform.
• American intervention. We’re not talking about boots on the ground — at least, not yet. But both the Bush and Obama administrations have demonstrated a willingness to invest heavily in changing the facts on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan. Israel, it can be argued — effectively — is even more vital to the stability of the region. Food, fuel and medicine must be provided and security must be maintained on both sides of the Green Line. Obviously, outside help is needed to do both.
• Balance the United Nations. This is the same world body that has passed repeated resolutions of condemnation against Israel, isolates it as the only member state that may not serve on the Security Council and allows the fight against racism to be turned into a mockery by allowing Durban I and II to take place. In an ideal word, the U.N. would be the perfect body to lead the peacemaking process in Israel, but as long as it is so one-sidedly politicized, that isn’t going to happen.
• Encourage interaction. What a shame that the Gulf State of the United Arab Emirates wouldn’t give a visa to Israeli tennis Shachar Pe’er, this February to compete in the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships. It’s even more shameful that it’s not the first time things like that have happened in the Arab world. As the good doctor says, we need to know each other better; that means we have to meet each other — and that applies to the rest of the Arab world. Israel is not completely blameless though, when the UAE wised up and allowed Israeli Andy Ram to compete in the same tournament, then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert urged him to boycott it. Ram went anyway, putting sports above politics. Good for him.
We’re sure there are other steps — this is way too complicated a process for there to be otherwise — but these concrete steps, and the more humanistic ones proposed by Dr. Abuelaish would go along to entrenching and making peace a realistic goal.