Israel must tackle the root of its problems and make peace with Palestine

Share

"Lebanon today, Palestine tomorrow," the placards said yesterday, as Palestinians in their wretched enclave of the Gaza Strip marched in celebration of Israel's withdrawal from south Lebanon. The slogan is, as such slogans sometimes are, both an oversimplification and a reminder of a vital truth. It is a self-deluding oversimplification, because there is simply no way Israel will be forced from the West Bank and Gaza in the same way that it has abandoned territory in Lebanon it had occupied for the best part of two decades. But it also captures the central and enduring truth of the entire Arab-Israeli conflict: that without a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, the Middle East will never know a proper peace.

"Lebanon today, Palestine tomorrow," the placards said yesterday, as Palestinians in their wretched enclave of the Gaza Strip marched in celebration of Israel's withdrawal from south Lebanon. The slogan is, as such slogans sometimes are, both an oversimplification and a reminder of a vital truth. It is a self-deluding oversimplification, because there is simply no way Israel will be forced from the West Bank and Gaza in the same way that it has abandoned territory in Lebanon it had occupied for the best part of two decades. But it also captures the central and enduring truth of the entire Arab-Israeli conflict: that without a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, the Middle East will never know a proper peace.

Before the irruption of south Lebanon on to the front pages, negotiations with the Palestinians had also been moving into their own messy endgame, and the immediate outlook was not promising. Secret talks in Stockholm were put on ice by the Israeli cabinet after the worst violence in years on the West Bank, including direct clashes between Palestinian police and Israeli troops. After a clutch of earlier, intermediate deadlines had been missed, there seemed little prospect of meeting the one that really mattered, on 13 September, when agreement was due on the so-called final arrangements covering the trickiest issues, including the status of Jerusalem.

In fact the elements of a compromise are in place. Like most compromises, it will be messy and satisfy neither side entirely, but if a deal is ever to be struck, this - or something very close to it - will be it. Press leaks suggest that Israel will give back not two-thirds, as previously assumed, but 90 per cent of the West Bank. Only a small portion of Palestinian refugees will be allowed to return to the places where they once lived, in pre-1967 Israel, but many of the 1,650 Palestinians held as terrorists in Israeli jails will be released. On Jerusalem, the Israelis will never concede a division of the city; almost certainly, they have made Yasser Arafat their best offer - of the village of Abu Dis, on its edge, as his administrative capital, with some rights of oversight of the Palestinian parts of east Jerusalem.

But all could be blown asunder in the emotional aftermath of Lebanon. Even before the Israeli withdrawal, the emerging deal was fiercely contested. The return of Abu Dis to full Palestinian rule almost wrecked Ehud Barak's coalition and was placed in abeyance after the West Bank rioting. That rioting, meanwhile, was a measure of Palestinian frustration at the unfulfilled promises of the Oslo agreement, seven long years ago, and at Mr Arafat's failure to deliver.

In the wake of the events in Lebanon, the danger is that positions on either side will harden. Palestinians will dream that, like Hizbollah, they can force Israel into retreat. With his credibility damaged and his authority over his own people faltering, Mr Arafat is under immense pressure to step up his demands and, if there is no deal in September, to take the potentially explosive step of a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood. After humiliation in Lebanon, however, Israel's mood will be: "Thus far and no further."

Yet it must go further. Even after this week's withdrawal, south Lebanon is a very dangerous place. It will remain so until Israel deals with the root of the problem and makes peace with the Palestinians.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Accounts Receivable / Accounts Payable Assistant - Central Lond

£27000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Accounts Receivable / Accounts Payab...

Account Manager, Spanish, London Bridge

£30,000 + 20K Commssion: Charter Selection: This rapidly expanding organisatio...

.Net/ C# Developer/ Analyst Programmer - West London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .NET/ C# .Pr...

Account Manager, Spanish, London Bridge

£30,000 + 20K Commssion: Charter Selection: This rapidly expanding organisatio...

Day In a Page

Read Next
'Child Genius': A television show celebrating exceptional intelligence in childhood  

The parents of Channel 4's Child Genius might be bad, but we’re worse for watching

Anna Leszkiewicz
Richard Dawkins  

Richard Dawkins is wrong to suggest that there can be varying degrees of severity involved in rape

Sian Norris
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on