Monday, December 17, 2007

People should feel the change

Dec.17, 2007

The first move to turn negative thinking to positive outlook among people is to convince them that they stand to lose something with negativism. Positive thinking among his people is something that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas needs as a priority as he seeks a negotiated peace agreement with Israel. However, negativism has become part of life for the Palestinians living under Israel's military occupation in the West Bank because of the stranglehold the Jewish state has on their daily life. The Israeli siege of the West Bank — including strict restrictions on Palestinian movement and the hundreds of roadblocks that have made life all but impossible in the territory — is one of the many realities of daily live for the Palestinians.
The finding of an Israeli military survey that one in four of Israeli troops serving at the checkpoints across the occupied West Bank have witnessed, heard about or taken part in physical or verbal abuse of Palestinians highlights the humiliation and suffering that the Palestinians are facing since the Jewish state occupied their territories in 1967.
The stymied economic growth in the West Bank is another reality of life, with unemployment and poverty growing to alarming rates. Couple these problems with the almost daily Israeli military raids aimed at killing or arresting Palestinian activists, and we have the best-ever breeding ground for negativism, frustration and despair. A feeling has set in among the Palestinian residents of the West Bank that they have little to lose or gain in supporting or opposing the renewed peace negotiations with Israel.
That is where Abbas needs all the help he could muster. He has to turn around the people's thinking by convincing them that there would be positive changes in their daily life under his leadership.
Today's conference of donors in Paris might produce pledges of the $5.6 billion in aid in three years that Abbas is seeking to support the Palestinian National Authority's economic and reform programme, but the money would be of little help if it could not make tangible changes in people's daily life. Freedom of movement and a sense of security are vital elements of economic development but they are missing in the West Bank today.
The best that Israel could come up while facing the reality of what Abbas needs at this juncture is a declaration that positive changes in Palestinian life in the West Bank could not come at "the expense of Israel's security."
Well, that posture had always been one of the biggest mistakes Israeli leaders have always made. They never entertained the thought that Israel's "security" could never be assured through the use of military force but that it would be the natural outcome of a fair and just peace agreement with the Palestinians.
Unless today's Israeli leaders turned away from the "military option" and started to think about the Palestinians as a people with legitimate rights, then peace would remain elusive, far beyond the one-year deadline that was announced at the Annapolis conference last month.