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On Wednesday, September 21, 2011, I expressed a level of optimism with respect to peace in the Middle East.  I had seen President Obama and President Hamid Karzai speak together with civility and the final handshake seemed genuine.

However, a conflict is looming in the traditional Middle East.  On the one hand,  Palestine is asking for nationhood and, on the other hand, Israel wants protection from Arab attacks.

In a recent address to the United Nations, Obama stated that Palestinians deserve “their own state,” which they do, but he added that this can “only be achieved through talks with Israel” (BBC, UK, September 21, 2011).

It may be worth reviewing the manner in which Israel came to be a nation.  Six million Jews had been killed by the Nazis, which could have been a catalyst for the creation of Israel.  Moreover, if they were to be a Jewish State, the Jews wanted to live in their “promised land” and, because of their circumstances at that time, this wish seemed legitimate.  However, this “promised land” was Palestine in general and Jerusalem in particular.

The Jewish tribes had been dispersed about two thousand years before the creation of the State of Isreal, on May 14, 1948.  Yet, in 1948, there were Jews already or still living in Palestine, then under British control.  So Palestine made room for the remainder of Europe’s Jewish population.  Arab Palestinians were therefore displaced for the arrival of European Jews who had survived the Holocaust.

But, let us return to more current events.  Palestinian authorities are now before the United Nations asking for the same type of nationhood that was granted to Israel. Palestinians deserve nationhood.  However, had Yasser Arafat accepted Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barack’s offer (Camp David Summit, 2000), Palestinian nationhood would have been achieved by now, and it would have been achieved “through talks with Israel.”  Prime Minister Ehud Barack’s offer was generally perceived to be generous and just.

Given, however, the rejection of Ehud Barack’s offer, can Palestinians now expect Israel to withdraw from the territories it has occupied since the 1967 Seven Day War? In the mind of a large number of Israelis, this land is perceived to belong to Israel, which is not the case.

Given also, the murderous attacks perpetrated by some Arab Palestinian radicals against Israelis and the subsequent Israeli retaliation against Palestinians, confidence in a peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians has been eroded.  Not that the creation of a Palestine is a pipe dream, but that Israel needs and deserves guarantees that it will not be attacked.

As for the Palestinians, in the current climate of distrust amongst the parties involved, they need a level playing field in order to deal with the legitimate security concerns of the Israelis.

Providing this level playing field could be the role of the United Nations.  Israel cannot live in constant fear of attacks from Arab countries.  Although both Israel and Palestine deserve nationhood, further bloodshed is unacceptable.  So I wonder whether nationhood for Palestinians can “only be achieved through talks.”

Perhaps.  But to the words of President Obama, I would add that considerable good faith on the part of both Israeli and Palestinian negotiators is imperative and that Palestinian authorities need to deal with its Iranian terrorist group, Hamas, which teaches hatred against Jews, the sort of hatred that can convince human beings to transform themselves into live bombs.

In other words, I would suggest that it would be in the best interest of Middle East countries, including Israel, to promote peace, which would mean rethinking the ancient wisdom of the lex talionis: “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.”

Rethinking such wisdom would be a concession to Christian teaching, except that Christ was himself a Jew and a Palestinian.

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September 23, 2011