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Kicking the Can: State of the two-state solution


You awaken to an explosion and people screaming.  It’s not fear that compels you to run from your shelter to come to the aid of your loved ones, but a sense of awareness that no one should have to become accustomed to.  Within seconds of hearing the loud noise you immediately understand the situation and how you and your family have been thrust into the middle of it.  You recall your life as it once was, or as it should’ve been.  You race over to a pile of burning debris to a dying family member with nothing more to offer as assistance than a prayer and the comfort of holding them until their eyes become glazed over and their hand becomes limp in your own.  You know what caused this incident.  You understand that the radical persons inside your community decided to retaliate against the state of Israel for being forced from their homes and sealed off from food and supplies that are necessary to the survival of your people.  You understand the rationale behind the Israeli government wanting to rid the world of these individuals but can’t quite grasp the idea of your family as collateral damage.  You pray to your God consistently, five times a day, but wonder what kind of God would allow you to live like this.  You worry about simple things that so many other people often take for granted such as food, shelter, safety, healthcare and most importantly clean water.  Water to drink for survival and water to help ward off infections and waste that will claim the lives of so many of your people.  You go to bed in the evening clinging to the faintest of hopes that someday things will be better.

The above paragraph isn’t from a Stephen King novel or even a fictional story.  Sadly enough, the above situation is one of hundreds of stories that have been a grim reality for the Palestinian people living along the West Bank and in Gaza.  Two decades ago Oslo conjured up emotions that the Middle East rarely provides: hope, trust and even compromise.  Israelis and Palestinians, two peoples claiming the same biblical lands, had rarely talked peace with each other before in a serious way.  On September 13, 1999, President Bill Clinton hosted a peace signing ceremony to mark the end of a very huge diplomatic achievement.  A handshake between Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was the memorable photo of the day.  Nine months later Arafat and his Palestinian guerrillas ended 27 years of exile by rolling into the Gaza Strip escorted by Israeli soldiers; a peace-time that was short lived.  On November 4, 1995 a radical right-wing Jewish settler shot Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin at a peace rally in Tel Aviv.  The gunshot killed the prime minister and the rest, as they say, is history. Without Rabin to assure a nervous Israel that Oslo was an actual path to peace, extremist drove up the tensions on both sides.  Arafat died in 2004 and with both leaders now gone violence has consistently occurred since.

Now, over two decades later, Palestinians have less income, less land and much less freedom.  The 1.7 million residents of Gaza are not permitted to travel beyond that narrow strip of land.  Israeli policies in the West Bank and East Jerusalem have doubled the number of Jewish settlers living there since 1993.  With terrorist attacks in Israel now being a rarity and the Palestinians living in refugee camps, there is no motivation for Israelis to resume peace talks anytime soon as they are comfortable living in the current situation, which isn’t to say this hasn’t always been the case.  The question one must ask moving forward is, “Where do we go from here?”  How can we attempt to realize peace and prosperity for all people?  Unfortunately, with a struggling global economy, gridlock in the United States Congress and the approval of politicians being at all-time historic lows, it seems that the situation between the Israelis and Palestinians will be simply added to the laundry list of concerns that our world leaders hope to do something about, but shall refrain until it becomes politically advantageous to do so.

(Photo by REUTERS/Ali Hashisho)

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