Peace-brokers needed

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 August, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 August, 2002, 12:00am

No political cause can justify the continued targeting of civilians in the Middle East. Last week's Hamas attack on students at Hebrew University in Jerusalem has been followed by the killing of an Israeli couple and the wounding of their two children in the West Bank, and the killing of nine Israelis in an attack on a bus in northern Israel.

Palestinian civilians have also died in Israeli attacks, and if there is one certainty in the Middle East today, it is that many more innocent people will be killed in a conflict that seems to have no end.

Each round of killing hardens public attitudes among both the Israeli and Palestinian populations. A poll in June by the Jerusalem Media and Research Centre indicated that 60 per cent of Palestinians surveyed expressed strong support for the suicide-bomb attacks, apparently on the basis that if Palestinians were being killed, so should Israeli civilians.

In Israel too, the public mood is supportive of continued military action in the Palestinian territories.

The consequence of continuing violence is an increasing hardening of political goals. An increasing number of Palestinians see the destruction of Israel, rather than living in coexistence, as something to strive for.

The Israeli response to the latest attacks has been to announce a total blockade of the West Bank. While this might bring a temporary cessation of the attacks, this is not a lasting solution. Even the recent Israeli military occupation of the West Bank did not halt the flow of attacks.

The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is political, even though the tactics of terror are used.

The solution too must be political. At present, neither the Israeli nor the Palestinian leadership seems willing or able to make the compromises required for peace.

The need for impartial international efforts to, in the first instance, broker and police a ceasefire, and then bring both parties to the negotiating table has never been greater. Unfortunately, the prospects of the United States and the other major powers doing this grow dimmer by the day.