November 30, 2012

Holy Land, part three

Jessica Kumari looks at what is standing in the way of a two-state solution.

Jessica: As we saw in the UN vote this week, many world leaders, including the current Israeli and Palestinian governments, say ending the conflict in the Middle East would mean creating two nations.

Today, we explore what is standing in the way of a two-state solution in our final look at the struggle in the Holy Land.

Abed: It is hard to imagine that many countries in the world, they don’t recognize Palestine.

Jessica: Nineteen-year-old Abed calls his home Palestine. The U.S. and Israel say Palestine doesn’t exist.

Abed: We must be equal with the other world.

Jessica: Palestinians, like Abed, want their own country separate from Israel. That is one thing leaders from both sides agree on – two separate states could be the solution to peace.

Fatah: Our goal is to live in peace with the Israelis in two states with very clear borders but that there would be cooperation, there would be trade, there would be harmonious relations.

Mark Regev: We would love to live in peace with the Palestinians. We have no greater desire than to have peace with our neighbors. A two-state solution is the only solution.

Jessica: The problem is they can’t agree on how to get there. For example, where would Israel end and Palestine begin?

Palestinians want a country based on borders from 1967, before Israel took control of the West Bank and Gaza during the Six-Day War. Israel says giving up some of that land would leave them vulnerable to attacks.

Palestinians criticize Israel for already creating borders with the separation wall. The wall is about two-thirds complete and once it is finished it will stretch nearly 500 miles.

Both concrete and wire, the barrier weaves its way along the 1967 borders but at certain points, it juts into the Palestinian side where some have turned it into a canvas to write about their frustrations and dreams of seeing Palestine on the map. But first the two sides have to agree on what to do with Israeli settlements.

During past peace negotiations, this land was set aside for the Palestinian people. But behind me, these homes belong to Jewish Israeli families. And the future of these settlement communities is one of the biggest challenges holding up the peace process.

Shai; Maybe they’ll build a new place like this.

Jessica: Eighteen-year-old Shai… lives on a Jewish settlement in the West Bank.

Why do you think that the international community doesn’t recognize these settlements and says that they are illegal?

Shai: No. Legally depends about who. Maybe America doesn’t say this is legal but according to Israel, the government that’s here, this is legal. So, totally no.

Jessica: Shai is right. The current Israeli government says in any two-state agreement the major Jewish settlements must be allowed to stay on Palestinian land.

Mark: Ultimately, the Palestinians have to recognize that the Jews have a right to be here. In the Palestinian narrative, they say we came and we stole their country. And the truth is, we see this as our country. Now, we’re willing to share but they have to acknowledge that we have rights here too.

Jessica: Palestinians say they are willing to give up some areas but they won’t agree to even talk until Israel agrees to stop any new settlements – something Israel has been unwilling to do.

Mark: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is ready for the immediate resumption of peace talks without any preconditions whatsoever.

Jessica: We spoke to the Israeli prime minister’s spokesperson yesterday and he said his prime minister is ready to speak right now. Why couldn’t you go in without any preconditions and just agree to talk?

Shaath: Well, it’s very interesting to call them preconditions, you know. Preconditions are conditions imposed prior to negotiations that have not been agreed to. What we’re asking is for Israel to employ the conditions that it signed for. We’re not asking for new conditions. We’re not asking for new requirements. We’re only asking Israel to implement what it has signed for, what it has agreed to.

We are a nation that is totally occupied by another. This is not because of a lack of a peace agreement. It’s because of a total violation by Israel of all the peace agreements it signed.

Jessica: Another problem? The Palestinians are not united.

Shaath’s political party, called Fatah, controls the West Bank. Hamas governs the Gaza Strip. The U.S. and Israel consider Hamas a terrorist organization for its extremist views.

Jessica: Does Israel have the right to exist?

Muhammad: As a political party, we don’t have to recognize the state of Israel.

Jessica: So, do you believe that violence against Israel is justified?

Muhammad: International law says that any people living under the occupation, they have the right to resist the occupation by all means or force.

Jessica: And as we saw in the deadly fighting earlier this month, that force against Israel came in the form of rockets and bombs. The Israeli army fought back. Still, experts say the toughest obstacle is the Holy City of Jerusalem.

Mark: Jerusalem is the most difficult issue because it’s very emotional and everyone has a special connection to Jerusalem. So maybe we should leave that for last because it is the most tricky.

Jessica: Would Israel ever let Jerusalem be divided?

Mark: I think it’s a mistake to divide the city. I think peace should mean a united Jerusalem.

Shaath: East Jerusalem is an occupied city. We need an agreement on the two sides of the city becoming the two capitals of the two independent states. West Jerusalem has its capital and East Jerusalem as our capital, and an arrangement that two capitals have freedom of movement and are run municipally together.

Jessica: A majority of Israelis and Palestinians support a two-state solution but peace can only happen if all sides agree. So do teens here believe peace could be achieved in their lifetime?

Abed: How you going to talk about peace while you are taking a lot of things from me? If you give me my rights, I can give you the peace.

Shai: If they want to live here, they need to accept Israel as the land of Jews.

Yotam: I think that the term peace is quite problematic. I think we should have an agreement. Would it be an honest peace? Would we be hugging on the streets? I don’t think so. I think we have some deep cultural issues with them that it would take centuries to solve.


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