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Violence in the Mideast

March 06, 1988

I am distressed at the level of intolerance and extremism that I have read regarding the recent unrest in the occupied territories of Israel. In my opinion, the answer to today's events cannot be found in an immediate and unconditional evacuation of Israeli forces from these areas or in the mass deportation of Palestinians. Moderation and concession-based political negotiations provide the solutions which so far have escaped those who have embraced the hard-line or supported armed struggle.

Unfortunately, intransigence and shortsightedness on both sides of the conflict have prevented any real attempt at resolving the Palestinian problem. The Arab states and their Palestinian brethren have consistently refused to make concessions or accept any reality that includes a Jewish state. They have also failed to take advantage of countless opportunities for peaceful settlement.

The Israelis are to blame as well. Many still foster grand visions of a greater Israel and continue to stake modern claims to lands based on biblical heritage. The government and people of Israel have grown complacent and more stubborn with victory. Constructive diplomacy has lain dormant, and imaginative and bold initiative have been undermined by the nation's acceptance of the status quo. The current disturbances have shocked a number of Israelis into sobriety, but not enough.

Israel's security concerns are very real. Three wars against armies 10 times its size and struggles with terrorist cells of lesser numbers have taught the Israelis the value of strength and sustained their will to keep it. Thus, it is not surprising that the Israelis have resorted to the use of such force. Israelis will not negotiate with boys holding Molotov cocktails, nor will they commit territorial suicide in order to appease international criticism.

What is desperately required now is moderation and a willingness to compromise on both sides. The recent explosion of unrest simply reflects the Palestinian people's deep frustration with the stalled political process and the failure of the PLO's "armed struggle." Children now play soldiers because nothing else seems to work.

Unless the Palestinian develop a legitimate leadership that is prepared to negotiate coexistence and peace with the Jewish state; unless the Israelis end their complacency with the status quo, and unless extremists on both sides lay to rest their dreams of old maps and move towards greater understanding, violence will increase its appeal, and blood will continue to flow from each camp. Whether or not Palestinians finally accept that Israel is here to stay, and the Israelis acknowledge the Palestinians' right to self-determination and to live in their own lands, will determine whether what we watch on TV or read in the papers will remain only pictures and words, or will end up shaping today's and tomorrow's world.



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