Seven decades is a long time for a wound to remain open. This is the least that can be said about the Palestinian “Nakba” (Arabic for “catastrophe”) — the 70th anniversary of which falls today.
As with a biological wound, lack of treatment leads to complications and infections. The collective failure of Israelis, Palestinians, Arabs and the international community to resolve this situation has made the conflict much more difficult to solve.
Palestinians are left with no choice but to either seek refuge elsewhere in the world, or continue to live under a humiliating occupation.
Consecutive Israeli governments have carried on building illegal settlements, resorting to inhuman and forbidden measures, including the use of white phosphorus bombs. It has also sought to change laws and geographic realities which make it difficult for a viable Palestinian state to be established.
The recent US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem adds insult to injury. Riyadh, the Arab League and most countries around the world have condemned this step.
However, it would be unfair to blame the move entirely on the current US administration. Such an assumption ignores the fact that the decision was made in Washington decades ago; all the current administration did was to decide to stop postponing the implementation of it.
Blaming President Donald Trump also makes it seem that previous US presidents were less biased toward the conflict. This is absolutely untrue, as any junior researcher can tell you just by counting the number of pro-Israel vetoes Washington has made at the UN Security Council. (This does not exclude Barack Obama, who despite tensions with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is regarded as one of the most pro-Israel presidents since Harry Truman).
So, 70 years later — is there still hope for peace? As remote as it sounds, the answer could possibly be yes. However, this requires quick action as the window of opportunity will not remain open forever.
Despite the embassy move, the Trump administration has made it clear that it would do all it can to negotiate a deal. And the good news here is that there is already an Arab Peace Plan on the table, which remains the best deal both parties will get — particularly given that it tackles most issues, with East Jerusalem serving as a capital for a Palestinian state.
There is also a dynamic and young leadership in Saudi Arabia, the country that initiated the peace plan and has the sway to push it forward across both the Arab and Muslim worlds.
However, there can be no peace without the consent and involvement of the concerned parties. Seventy years on, one would hope that Israelis must realize that they have nothing more to gain. Indeed, by now it should be clear that the “Palestinian cause” is not going away. In addition, any far-right dreams of a “Greater Israel” that goes beyond the current borders are clearly impossible to achieve.
For their part, Palestinians should realize that they can’t afford to lose any more. Short-sighted strategies, resorting to violence against civilians and internal conflicts have possibly left a potential state more crippled than the Israeli occupation ever intended.
While nothing can undo the pain Palestinians suffered over the past seven decades, the leadership of Fatah and Hamas need to work to prevent future generations from sharing the same destiny. This starts by putting their differences — and personal interests — aside. Hamas should cease firing missiles toward Israeli civilians and make a firm and unshakable commitment to a peaceful solution to this conflict.
Israel should stop building settlements and accept that any future peace will be built on compromises made today. A future peace can’t be achieved without recognizing that the occupation is a crime and must end now.
Israel should also recognize that future peace is not attainable if it does not actively work toward a viable Palestinian state and want a decent life for its next-door neighbors. The US — and the Quartet — should work toward this too.
A lot can be achieved with a lasting peace between Israel and the Arabs: A war-less future for our children, an even stronger united front against mutual enemies such as Tehran and terrorism, a much bigger market and bottomless economic opportunities.
But most importantly, a peace deal will finally remove a painful scar that has disfigured the face of humanity for seven decades.
• Faisal J. Abbas is the editor in chief of Arab News.