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Foundations for Peace

Never Stop Negotiating

Eleventh in the Making Peace series

Copyright © 2005 Dorian Scott Cole

The passing of Yasir Arafat marked the passing of an era. People on both sides of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict want peace. Groups have even negotiated outside of the government to show that peace can be attained. The elected Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, has stood up to the terrorist resistance in the Palestinian side. Israeli Prime Minister Sharon has faced the difficult decision to dismantle Israeli expansion into Palestinian areas. The best opportunity for peace has arrived.

Once again, terrorists are doing what they do best. Those who oppose peace and only want to eliminate the Israelis are again striking the Israelis with homicide bombers. In reaction, Israel puts an immediate stop to negotiations and states that Abbas must stop the terrorists.

Terrorists come from all directions in the Middle East to strike Israel. For Abbas to stop all terrorists is like stopping the wind. As long as there are terrorists, Israel will allow itself to be prevented from achieving peace. The practical result is, death to Israelis and Palestinians will continue for as long as Israel delays.

As I have stated elsewhere in this series on peace, there will always be conflict between people - permanent peace is achieved in establishing ways to resolve conflict as it arises. Israel seems unwilling to follow that trail, asserting instead that peace must be achieved first, and then work out ways to resolve conflict. It is an impossible goal. Given the mindset and independence of terrorists, they are unlikely to stop if they think there is any possibility of disrupting the peace process.

The way to defeat terrorism is to never stop negotiating. When negotiations stop, terrorism is winning. When negotiations go forward, terrorism is losing. What the Israelis and the Palestinians must do is continue working out their problems, regardless of what terrorists do. Reach agreements, move forward, reach another agreement, move forward.

This policy should hold true for other situations as well. I have no way of knowing what the Bush administration and other countries know about Iran and its terrorist support and nuclear weapon pursuits. While I have met many Iranians, like them as a people, and wish them well, I don't trust the Iranian government. Extremism with its inflammatory rhetoric and propaganda too easily has its way in Iran, and from extremism comes terrorism and mass destruction.

However, the saber rattling is not helping the cause of peace. While military intervention was necessary in Iraq, it seems unnecessary in Iran, Syria, and North Korea. The constant saber rattling simply drives foes together for support, and enhances the propaganda of the extremists. It is very polarizing in a part of the world where the balance is very critical.

Iran has previously made overtures toward normalizing relations with the US and been rebuffed. Similarly, North Korea, which has proven beyond any doubt that it can't be trusted, has tried to normalize relations. While its stance of citing fear of invasion may be paranoia, it is probably just posturing. Besides, North Korea is a regional problem which requires a regional solution, and US involvement should be minimal. But the US is not talking with any of these countries, but instead is inciting fear.

It isn't just these countries, but Cuba as well. No one in the US appreciates what Castro did to Cuba, defying CIA predictions that he would help that country, and instead turned it to Communism. But the ongoing ostracism of Castro keeps him driven into a corner. It is not a policy that has worked - Castro has not changed, and the Cuban people suffer because of the isolation. Castro has also made overtures to the US to normalize relations, and small steps were taken in that direction until recent years in which the US is again shutting Castro out.

Bullying people into submission is a tactic that both doesn't work, and stirs up a lot of hatred against the US. On the other hand, normalizing relations and helping those countries draws them into our circle of friendship so that the propaganda against the US dies down, and we can be a positive influence on those countries. That is the practical reality.

When people stop talking to each other, isolation and fear grow. When people talk, isolation disappears and so does fear.

I don't know enough about foreign policy objectives and situations to know why the Bush administration is following the course that it is, especially on any individual policy, but I think that it should be "rethunk."

Never stop negotiating - finding ways to work out problems and conflicts is a much better avenue toward peace.

- Scott

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