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One-Wish Genie in a Bottle!
A woman rubbed a bottle and out popped a genie. The amazed woman asked if she got three wishes...

11 February   |   2006   |   Subject  Middle East & North Africa (MENA)

... The genie said, "Nope, sorry, three-wish genies are a storybook myth. I'm a one-wish genie. So what will it be?"


The woman did not hesitate, "I want peace in Israel and Palestine. See this little plot of land on the map? I want these two peoples to stop fighting with each other. I want peace there that will bring about world harmony too."

The genie looked at the map and exclaimed, "Lady, please be reasonable.  I'm out of shape after being in a bottle for 500 years. I'm good but not THAT good! I don't think it can be done. Make another reasonable wish!"

I received this witty "blurb" from a friend last week, and I too was initially tempted to concur with the genie that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is far too intractable for any solution that weds peace with justice and security for both peoples. But then, I drew back since I still maintain that it is not impossible to achieve peace between Palestinians and Israelis - despite the exigent issues - so long as both sides show good will and good faith on the elemental points.

Today with Hamas, just like yesterday with the PNA and PLO, the core points of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have remained unerringly constant, albeit with some years-long modifications. They include Jerusalem, the right of return for Palestinian refugees, occupied territories and final boundaries, settlements, resources, security and the future models of governance, statehood and neighbourly relations. Israelis and Palestinians should address these points on an equal footing and in a spirit of compromise: in other words, neither side will get 90% of everything they claim, but nor should the aggrieved party get only 30% whilst the occupying party ends up keeping 70%. Any lopsided "resolution" that simply pushes for extrinsic or vested interests would collapse almost as quickly as it will have been cobbled together.

Over the past two weeks, political pundits have explored the nature of a Hamas-led government - and its impact on both the Israeli-Palestinian political map as much as on the internal Palestinian dimension that includes the question of Islamisation, the rights of Christian, Samaritan and other minorities, and issues of education, corruption or cronyism. Leaving aside for now those internal Palestinian issues, let me start off by stressing that the West must desist from sketching breathtakingly nightmarish scenarios about Hamas' orientations and goals. Those who have been watching this political movement grow would understand that its commitment to clear and unchanging national principles is steadfast, and is in fact the very basis upon which Hamas have come to power today. But such commitment, I believe, could also be overlain with political pragmatism so long as any future negotiations herald give-and-take, win-win scenarios for both peoples. Any violence from any side, is not the answer: we must look behind the intimidating stereotypes and find ways to rise above those shadows of the past as we seek to promote peace, freedom and democracy in this raddled land.

With Hamas, it seems that two distinct choices are fashionable at the moment: (a) bomb the organisation and attempt to kill all its members, which is ludicrous let alone extra-judicial and criminal, or (b) engage it in a dialogue that might lead to a better chance for peace. Indeed, by using an already overtaxed analogy, let me point out that the IRA in Northern Ireland, with its Green Book, was at one time also considered a wicked terrorist organisation that nobody would touch with a bargepole. But now, Sinn Fein, the political arm of this movement, leads the process of negotiations. The focus of those who fear Hamas' covert agenda, and consequently distrust its overt agenda, should explore such openness as would help prod the peace process forward, whilst ensuring that Hamas is not driven by tactical circumstances or political ploys into a corner where it would be compelled to manifest a Sinn Fein wing for politics and an IRA wing for resistance.

I cannot stress strongly enough that the future of the process for peace cannot depend on the Palestinian side alone. After all, Palestinians per se are the much weaker side - albeit with the more legitimate cause. The future depends more on Israel, and on whether it would show any real compromise over its occupation of Palestinian lands - since the hub of the whole conflict is essentially on land under the guise of two competing nationalisms - or whether it would persist unilaterally with its colonialist, discriminatory and suppressive policies.

The world is still in shock at the prospect of a Hamas government - one, incidentally, that could mount a real challenge against Israel with its competence and good governance. But until such time as the Israeli parliamentary elections next month, it would help to focus on the process rather than substance of negotiations. This could foster some confidence building, and might come in handy with the substantive issues once the parties hunker down to grapple with them again.

The genie that has spun out of the bottle is justifiably baffled and diffident about its abilities to address this long-simmering conflict. But having been bottled for five centuries, has it perhaps forgotten that its fraternity of fellow genies - the Quartet from the USA, EU, Russia and UN - is duty-bound to facilitate its peace-seeking quest?

© Dr Harry Hagopian   |   2006   |   11 February


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