Building peace

Building peace

It’s no secret that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to delay a Palestinian state. In his speech last week he called for negotiations for a demilitarized Palestinian state, the closest he’s come so far to the magic phrase “two-state solution.” Essentially, he’s said it, just not that exact phrase. Early in his premiership, he said his government is committed to the Road Map. Well, that leads to a two-state solution. So all along he’s been saying it without saying it.

What he has been saying, however, is that conditions are not quite right for Palestinian statehood and he wants to create an economic peace. I’ve written before about the benefits of boosting the Palestinian economy as a precursor to peace and today, The Jerusalem Post had an article about Palestinian construction workers in West Bank settlements.

Jamal Abu Sharikheh, 27, of the village of Bet Ur al-Tahta, has been working as a construction laborer in Givat Ze’ev for the past three years.

Asked if he had any problem building homes in the settlements at a time when the international community was demanding that Israel freeze the construction work, the father of four also said he was trying to support his family “in a dignified manner.”

He and most of the laborers interviewed by the Post over the past week said they had never come under pressure from fellow Palestinians to stay away from work in the settlements.

“If they want us to leave our work, they should offer us an alternative,” Abu Sharikheh said. “We don’t come to work in the settlements for ideological reasons or because we support the settlement movement. We come here because our Palestinian and Arab governments haven’t done anything to provide us with better jobs.”

This right here is the path to peace. These Palestinians have livelihoods, they have something to lose. They are providing for their families instead of relying on handouts from manipulative leaders. They are responsible for themselves.

As Abu Sharikheh said above, the Palestinian and Arab governments have provided nothing else for them. This is the real Palestinian tragedy: Palestinian and Arab leaders have kept the Palestinians living in squalor for decades because they are more useful as starving pawns.

There is little denying that when a final deal is eventually reached, many of the West Bank settlements will be uprooted while some will stay. Despite the international rhetoric, however, the settlements are not the biggest roadblock to peace. What is stopping peace is the Palestinian and Arab leadership’s continued refusal to allow these people to lift themselves up on their own. Everything about the Palestinian narrative has been focused on Israel as the source of their problems and enforced that the solution can come only from Israel. The entrepreneurial spirit has been crushed but it is finally starting to grow. The Palestinian people must collectively realize that they – not the thieves and murderers who have kept them in refugee camps for decades – control their fates.

Who knows? Maybe someday soon we will see a Palestinian revolt against their leaders like what is happening now in Iran.

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