Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Israel and Palestine: an idea for peaceful separation

This is an idea that came to me while passing some of Europe's great rivers on a long and boring coach journey. I have lived overlooking one of London's docks for nearly two years and the water, filled with fish and birds, has been a calming influence for me in that time. It's a pretty twee idea, but imagining peace solutions is somewhat more cheering than trying to deal with the reality. And probably just as effective really.

The borders that have been effectively agreed since 1967 should be firmly established by the international community, with as much cooperation as is possible from Israel and Palestine. Israel has to be reassured that the international community will always support its right to provide a homeland for Jews, but that its current tactics are simply not providing security for its people. Israel has to give up its settlements and Palestian refugees must give up their right to return to what has become Israeli land. Both settlers and refugees should receive help in building a secure and permanent life within their own borders. The practicalities of all this has been sketched out by many other people so there's no need to go into in detail. The point is that both sides must be given viable states an international peacekeepers should take over security in the area as a prerequisite. It may be a semantic starting point to switch from Israel/Palestine to Israel and Palestine in writing about the area.

So, once the borders are decided and security established, the international community would oversee the construction of a canal running from the sea, around the Gaza Strip and the Westbank and the areas' agreed 'corridor'. A canal could be effectively patrolled with speedboats and each side would be free, if they wished, to construct any form of further security on their own side to prevent incursions.

While water would initially be used to separate, it could contribute in a very real way to bringing peace. Technology could be utilised to turn the sea-water into usable water for those living in Israel and Palestine. Water can be calming, it can create an oasis. Projects could be formed to bring young Israelis and Palestinians together in building attractive waterside areas. Eventually, and optimistically, bridges could be built over the canal to link the two communities. Instead of being a symbol of separation, the canal could become a symbol of peace and progress could be visibly marked: from the deconstruction of walls to the building of bridges.

The canals built in Britain in the past were great technological feats: ambitious but also very practical in moving goods and people. The world could contribute to peace and security in Israel and Palestine with a canal: it is certainly their moral duty to take more practical steps to solve this situation, which is not getting any better while a seemingly unending state of conflict exists between them. The Palistinian state cannot be said to truly exist while Palestinians have to justify their movements to Israeli soldiers all the time and lose their farmland to the fence/wall and the Israelis cannot feel comfortable in the state which was supposed to be their sanctuary while they live in fear of being blown up as they eat pizza. An international peace force is the only way to move towards peace.

Afterthought: in the light of this week's news of the peace agreement on Israel and Palestine agreed by Israel, the idea of international intervention seems more remote than ever. Well done Dubya...

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