October 20, 2000 Special Dispatch No. 142

An Arab Call for Peace

October 20, 2000
North Africa, Palestine, Tunisia | Special Dispatch No. 142

In an op-ed in the Palestinian daily Al-Quds, October 17, 2000 titled "There is no Substitute for Peace," Lafif Lakhdar [1] writes:

"Former French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau said that it is easier to wage war than to make peace, but the Middle East is complex… because it is ruled by individuals rather than institutions. The freedom of discussion within institutions allows for transparency in the decision-making mechanism, which [in turn] makes those decisions predictable. Under individual rule, you have to be a skilled psychologist to be able to interpret the seizures of a ruler's whims and frenzies. The Middle East is complex because it is still ruled by insanity and lack of logic, which make symbols and buildings holier than life. It is complex because it doesn't even know the culture of peace, namely, tolerance, the recognition of the right to disagree, and the ability to put yourself in someone else's shoes in order to understand him and to negotiate with him rather than with yourself…."

"In this volatile situation, the voice of cool reason should be heard… And what does the [rational] mind tell people and elites on the verge of war? It tells them that if the present situation in the occupied territories has lost the legitimacy bestowed on it by the Madrid conference and the Oslo agreement, and if it is necessary to escape from this situation, either to war or to peace - then even if war brings an international solution to the conflict, it will destroy the confidence-building process that is needed for coexistence in this region, let alone the wounds of this war, which will not easily heal."

"Therefore, the only option is the hard but necessary peace of which the conditions are an [Israeli] withdrawal from the occupied Arab territories and an Israeli recognition of a viable Palestinian state. Whatever the fate of the present crisis what may be, Israel is fated to coexist with the Palestinian state and to live in peace with the Arab states."

"The Palestinians, on their part, need peace no less than the Israelis. First, in order to be able to exist as a state. And secondly, to be able to meet the huge challenges that await them. Time does not work in their favor. Every day that passes without peace complicates their old problems even more and prolongs their suffering."

"Every temptation to turn the peace process into a war process - which is demanded by some people who do not think historically, will lead only to a second 'Nakbah.' [2] Every Palestinian demand beyond the demand that Palestine be a homeland for two people and Jerusalem be a capital of two states - is political suicide." [3]

[1] The author may be Al-'Atif Al-Akhdar Al-Ibrahimi, a former Algerian politician who is now United Nations Undersecretary-General for Special Assignments in support of the Secretary-General's preventive peacemaking efforts.

[2] The first 'Nakbah' was the defeat of the Palestinians in the war of 1948 and what followed it.

[3] This article was originally published in the Egyptian government daily Al-Ahram.

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