As the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority attempt, yet again, to renew peace talks in Washington, D.C. today after a break of three years, there is much to keep in mind from the past
three decades of negotiations, which began when President Sadat of Egypt first came to Jerusalem.
While there can be no denial of the progress which has indeed occurred on the Road to Peace over the years, the great challenges which still remain ahead should give us pause to recall one or two important lessons which have been learned on the Road Thus Far.
Probably the most important among such lessons concerns the Egyptian – Israeli Peace Treaty. The first tangible success on the Road to Peace. Many people who recall the negotiation of this treaty merely state that it resulted in Israel’s return of the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt. But what most people forget is that in return for this sacrifice, Israel was supposed to receive full normal relations with Egypt.
This means far more than the absence of war, the exchange of ambassadors, and polite handshakes at international conferences. Full normal relations was supposed to mean the beginning of a process of friendship and economic cooperation between the peoples of Egypt and Israel. A process which was meant to someday remove the suspicion and hatred which had existed for so long between them.
While some efforts have been made over the years to achieve this, and while there is a spirit of cooperation and respect between the military leaders of the two nations, there has been little or no progress on creating trust and friendship between the general populace of these two nations. Which brings us to an important lesson.
When President Sadat signed the Peace Treaty with Prime Minister Begin of Israel, and President Carter of the United States in Washington D.C. in 1980, there were many people in Israel who asked this very important question;
Have we made peace with a man, or with a nation?
The question is a valid one. When a leader makes peace with another nation, when his own people are highly reluctant to do so, can he guarantee that they will abide by that peace in the future?
While history has proven that President Sadat and his successor, President Mubarak, did indeed do their best to adhere to the terms of the Egyptian – Israeli Peace Treaty, and went to great efforts to foster peace between Israel and its neighbors in the region, the answer is much less clear in terms of the people of Egypt.
The same can be said for the leaders and people of Israel. While there is no doubt that such great leaders as Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin have sacrificed their lives for the peace process, and the Jewish People in both Israel and the Diaspora have gone to great lengths to perform acts of kindness and cooperation with Egyptians on a cultural level, there is no question that there remains much suspicion and distrust between the two peoples.
So as the present leaders of the Jewish and Palestinian nations come together, yet again, to try and push forward on the Road to Peace, they should keep in mind the importance of this question. Are they making peace among themselves, or between their peoples? Are they interested in merely signing papers, and moving forces around? Or do they truly wish to embark on a new approach, which involves both courage and caution, risk and reward, tradition and creativity, in order to try and foster a true spirit of frienship and trust between their peoples?
The Road continues.