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K.K. Dajani: Breaking the Cycle of Anger

For the Palestinians—who have been subjected to displacement, loss of homes, absence of basic life necessities, incessant persecution, lack of identity and recognition of basic human rights, whether as individuals or a nation as a whole—this has translated into despair, hopeless, and a loss of faith in all the endeavors that have been attempted to date in securing a life and future for them.

This is what I see every day: a vicious cycle of anger, hatred, and violence between the Palestinian and Israeli peoples that has led to a terrible loss of human life, great suffering, and an ongoing disregard for basic human rights. The consequences of this have impaired social development, economic prosperity, and political stability, leading to a descending spiral that has brought the two nations insecurity, loss of dignity, lack of trust, and regression in many aspects.

At the beginning of the last century, in competing for claims over the same territory, the two nations found themselves interacting in an undesirable, intolerable manner toward each other, ranging from the exchange of protests in the international forum to the exchange of gunfire and violence at the local and regional level. This has led to what I refer to as the “cooperative conflict” scenario, which has been the underlying theme in any deal between the parties involved in solving the ongoing conflict.

The last decade has witnessed the beginning of a paradigm shift toward peace in this relationship. In order to give peace a better chance, it is my belief, as a Palestinian, that this vicious cycle must be broken. This can be achieved through effective policies and strategies that will inject a sense of forgiveness, better understanding, and a mutual acceptance of differing human, social, cultural, religious, and historical views. This will enrich the insights of the individuals within the conflict, giving them a chance to have a shared vision that will change the direction of the above-mentioned “descending” spiral into an “ascending” one. These new policies will bring the Palestinian and Israel nations to a state of cooperative harmony, social equality, and economic prosperity, offering the Middle East and the whole world political stability.

From a political standpoint, this can also be enhanced by the participation of both peoples, who should arrive at a consensus of shared principles of peace. The nations’ leaders will also have to be bold and courageous enough to face the taboos that have been avoided, namely, the issue of Jerusalem and the holy sites, the borders between the two neighbors, the settlements, and finally—the heart of the problem and the most sensitive aspect—the issue of the refugees and their right to return.

Fortunately, three comprehensive initiatives for peace in the Middle East have emerged, and the conflicting parties have not rejected them or discredited any of their basic principles:

1. The international initiative of the Roadmap for Peace, an interim plan for two years initiated by U.S. President Bush and endorsed by the International Quartet to end the cycle of violence. It is performance-based and goal-driven, with clear phases, time lines, target dates, and benchmarks that aim at making progress through reciprocal steps by the two parties in the political, security, economic, humanitarian, and institution-building fields. All of this would be done under the auspices of the Quartet, leading to a comprehensive settlement and establishment of a Palestinian state.

2. The regional one proposed by the Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, calling for the acceptance of Israel as a neighbor, with all nations living in peace and security in the context of a comprehensive settlement on all tracks, including the Syrian and Lebanese tracks.

3. The local, bi-national settlement of intention entitled, “The People’s Vote for Peace,” also known as the Nusseibeh-Ayalon Agreement, originated by a group of Israelis and Palestinians seeking to find their own solutions to the problem. What follows below are the principles that it proposes:

The Palestinian people and the Jewish people each recognize the other’s rights with respect to the same land. The Jewish people have for generations wanted to establish the Jewish state in all the land of Israel, while the Palestinian people have similarly wanted to establish a state in all the land of Palestine. The two sides hereby agree to accept a historical compromise based on the principle of two sovereign and viable states existing side by side. The following statement of intentions is an expression of the will of the majority of the people. Both sides believe that through this initiative they can influence their leaders and thereby open a new chapter in the region’s history. This new chapter will also be realized by calling on the international community to guarantee security in the region and to help in rehabilitating and developing the region’s economy.

The agreement’s statement of intentions is as follows:

  • Two states for two peoples: Both sides will declare that Palestine is the only state of the Palestinian people and Israel is the only state for the Jewish people.
  • Borders: Permanent borders between the two states will be agreed to on the basis of the June 4, 1967, lines, UN resolutions, and the Arab Peace Initiative, also known as the Saudi Initiative.
  • Jerusalem will be an open city, the capital of two states. Freedom of religion and full access to holy sites will be granted to all. Recognizing the suffering of the plight of the Palestinian refugees, the international community, Israel, and the Palestinian state will initiate and contribute to the international fund to compensate them.
  • The Palestinian state will be demilitarized, and the international community will guarantee its security and independence.
  • The Palestinian people will have the right of return to their Palestinian state with the right of compensation, and the Jewish people will have the right of return only to the Israeli state.

Upon full implementation of these principles, all claims on both sides, as well as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict itself, will end.

[Source: Islamic Perspectives on Peace. Tarrytown, NY: Universal Peace Federation, 2006.]