A Way Out

Every foreign military invasion has a pre-defined end called withdrawal. The hideous Israeli incursion of internationally recognized Palestinian territories is no exception. Every military operation has a defined political goal, yet Sharon seems to be keeping this a secret from his cabinet, the Israeli people, indeed, the world.

Tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, Israel will need to decide to which border they will withdraw their troops. Israel can choose to move back to one of the hundreds of its self-defined 'security' borders, or they can, once and for all, choose to end the never-ending spiral of violence by finally implementing UN resolutions and withdrawing back to the June 4, 1967 borders, thus closing one chapter of its senseless military occupation.

The infamous Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, knows this very well and he also knows that his time is limited in rampaging Palestinian cities, institutions and lives. The fact of the matter is that US-armed Israel can occupy, and re-occupy Palestinian lands over and over, and under any media slogan that fits the times, but will never rid itself of the legitimate Palestinian resistance to end the illegal Israeli occupation that has haunted it and the world for 37 years now.

Palestinians went to Madrid, Oslo, Camp David and Taba and extended the greatest concession ever voluntarily made by an indigenous people -- to relinquish 78% of their ancestral homeland so Jews around the world could fulfill their own dream of a homeland. In return, the world community expected the Israeli occupiers to dismantle its illegal occupation on the 22% of Palestinian lands that remained, the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. What Palestinians received instead was a package of Israeli aggression like never before.

Israeli policy makers have become blinded by the suicide bombings to the point that they cannot comprehend that their own, home-made, military occupation of Palestinian lands is generating, not only suicide bombers, but a united community that is increasingly feeling that any future co-existence may be impossible given the deafening silence of the Israeli public-opinion toward the continuing occupation. Suicide bombings are totally immoral and serve no strategic goal, but have been totally successful in feeding into the political plans of maniac military professionals like Ariel Sharon and Shimon Peres.

Well-oiled public relation campaigns are emanating from Washington and Tel Aviv to portray the Palestinian victim as the rapist and the Israeli rapist as a poor soul with a dire need for a security fix. In spite of this, Palestinians are going out of their way to facilitate the entry of Israel into the Middle East as an equal, legitimate entity and a partner for the future. Now with the Arab League offer for normalization with Israel if UN resolutions are implemented, the Arab World too, as a whole, is giving Israel a respectable way out as well. Unfortunately, Sharon and Peres are missing this once in a lifetime opportunity and would rather turn every single Palestinian citizens life upside down hoping for mass submission, which will never come.

History will judge the Palestinian leadership on its political wisdom, but Israel cannot wait for history. Israel must choose today between peace on internationally recognized terms with the dispossessed indigenous people of their State or face another half-century of isolation with the backdrop of a rapidly encroaching demographics dilemma.

For our part, we as two citizens of this troubled region, offer President Bush and his Administration, a history book of Palestine and the Palestinians. For the Palestinian and Israeli leaderships, their part starts with an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders and a Palestinian commitment to remain committed -- which Mr. Arafat amazingly still is even under gunfire -- to resolving the remaining issues of refugees, settlements, and security in a new and improved peace process.

Today, we write not as colleagues, but as a Palestinian living under Israeli attack, a few hundred meters from Arafat's compound, and an Israeli, living a few hundred meters from one of the latest suicide bombings.

There is a way out.

Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American living in the besieged Palestinian City of Al-Bireh in the West Bank. He is co-author of Homeland: Oral Histories of Palestine and Palestinians (1994). Michael Dahan is an Israeli-American political scientist living in Jerusalem.

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