And here he gives us yet another reason why.
Pro-Israel, Pro-Arab and Pro-PeaceShare
Yesterday at 10:52am
As written in the Toronto Star - March 30, 2009 :
There is a story about two Israelis meeting in the street. "How are things?"
"In a word, 'good.' In two words, 'not good.' "
I have just spent 10 days travelling in the Middle East, meeting with leaders in Cairo, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Ramallah, Amman, Damascus and Beirut.
It is a time of intense discussion and debate: between Hamas and Fatah over a unity government; among Arab leaders about putting life into their peace initiative; among Israeli political leaders about a new government; among everyone about Iran.
Surrounding it all is public opinion in the region, which wants peace and security but in which deep resentments and anger rise up: Israeli opinion remains incensed with the vitriolic rhetoric, the constant threats, and what they see as a lack of real understanding of their situation. Arab opinion is incensed with Israel's attack on Gaza, a possible right-wing government in Israel, and a peace process that in their eyes has gone nowhere.
Seven years ago, Arab leaders launched an initiative that said the Arab world would establish normal relations with Israel if Israel would accept the borders of 1967 and thus allow for the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. There is some hope this approach will be revived at next week's Arab summit.
However, Iran espouses a radically different view. When its leaders talk of Israel's "occupation," they are not talking about what happened in 1967 and after, but of Israel's very existence and presence in the region. When they talk of "resisting the Zionist entity" and of their support for Hamas and Hezbollah, they are referring to a long-term vision of never-ending struggle.
Iran's refusal to comply with UN resolutions on the development of its nuclear program, its military buildup and role in supplying arms to Hamas and Hezbollah, both of which are publicly committed to the destruction of Israel, is destabilizing the entire region.
Not surprisingly, Israeli opinion has hardened as a result: both the Lebanon invasion of 2006 and the Gaza invasion of 2008-09 had widespread public support. Israelis point to the improved security on the Lebanese border and the dramatic drop in suicide bombs, which they attribute to the security wall, as evidence that regardless of how it plays elsewhere, their approach is working.
Israeli conservatives take this logic further, asserting that the conflict cannot be resolved, only managed – with Israel holding the upper hand.
What is troubling about the "managing the conflict" scenario is that it ignores how difficult living conditions are for most Palestinians. There are more than 500 roadblocks in the West Bank, making normal civilian and economic life extremely difficult. Israelis say "settlements are not an issue," meaning they will be resolved at the bargaining table, but continued building on deeply contested land is unquestionably seen as both a provocation and a barrier to peace by even the most moderate of Palestinians.
Israel's challenge is that Hamas and Hezbollah do not feel bound by the same rules of war and engagement as Israel. Rocket launchers are placed on the rooftops of schools and apartment buildings; military headquarters are buried beneath hospitals. These tactics are frequently used by guerrillas with popular support. But fighting these wars is painfully difficult. Rockets and bombs go astray, innocent men, women and children are killed, and the world is watching.
Being justified in a response does not mean the response will have a successful result. Life is not fair. Hitting back, and hitting back hard, will not necessarily produce the desired result.
Canada's friendship with Israel is deep and permanent. But that friendship does not mean we can be indifferent to the Palestinian claim to a viable state. The logic of the UN decision in 1947 to accept partition clearly implied there would be not just one but two states in the old Ottoman and British Mandate. We should be supporting the creation of a Palestinian state and showing more leadership in expressing what it will take to get there.
The Annapolis process set in motion an important effort to help the Palestinian Authority take greater responsibility for security matters, including assisting the Authority to train 6,000 members of the national security force and the 2,000-strong presidential guard. There are nine Canadians involved in this process. Canadians on the ground say the Authority is ready to take on more, that there is room to dismantle checkpoints and roadblocks. A wizened Fatah commander now in charge of the national security force goes even further. "Give us the tools to do the job and we shall do it." An old fedayeen fighter, he is ready to embrace the two-state solution. But he sees no deep willingness in Israel to walk down this path, which as he sees it only helps Hamas.
FOR THE LONGEST TIME Canadian foreign policy in the Middle East has been bedevilled by the notion that we must be either "pro-Israel" or "pro-Arab." We should be both. Our ties of emotion and friendship are deep with many countries, and we must be proud of our own history, our diplomatic achievements and commitments to human rights and international law.
Canada diminishes itself when it is less than it could be, when it chooses to see the world through a narrow lens, and when it turns every foreign issue into a partisan stance instead of an opportunity for statesmanship.