The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict:
Message of His Beatitude of
Patriarch Greorgios III
Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarchate
of Antioch and All the East
of Alexandria and of Jerusalem
The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Brave Peace
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the crucial conflict in the Middle East that has been feeding all rancour, revolution and extremism for more than sixty years! It is the mother-crisis of all the regional crises that feed on these revolts and disappointments engendered by abortive peace negotiations or rather still-born preliminaries.
Yet, if we only make the effort to shake off our prejudices and accept to listen to others in complete empathy with their wishes and non-negotiable demands, we quite simply discover that room can be found for negotiations and even room for possible, viable peace between these well-defined and in principle non-negotiable positions.
Palestinians and Israelis each have the right to have and to live in a sovereign State with secure borders. And no-one will dispute for either of them this inalienable right of peoples to arrange their own affairs.
Israelis cannot betray either their faith or their nationalism. According to the Bible, the State of Israel – the national territory of the Kingdom of Israel – is the whole of Palestine. From the perspective of faith Palestine is the Promised Land of the chosen people and the national Homeland of the nationalist dream of Judaism.
Hence we can understand that any Prime Minister, Member of Parliament or other Israeli leader who proposes a solution that fails to take into account those two requirements – of faith and nationalism – would be seen as a traitor to his faith and nation.
The decision to decree that Israel is a Jewish country originates in this duality that underlies the State of Israel, a duality that, obligatorily, leads into an impasse every attempt at negotiations even if they are not still-born. Anyway, as at Masada, this is Jewish suicide.
Each of the parties, Israelis and Palestinians, are facing the wall of certainties raised by the other side. Only the intervention of a third party can get them and us out of this impasse.
This intervention would be that of an international moral force. As the UN sponsored the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, let the international community, the influential countries, have the courage today rather than tomorrow to force Israel to accept the creation of two viable States with secure borders, living side by side as good neighbours.
This moral pressure must be considered as a support for the Jewish people. Indeed, strengthened by sincere friendship not devoid of respect for the identity of the Jewish people, this pressure should consist in persuading the Israeli political class to renounce the strict, literal application of the two foundations of Israel: that of religion and Jewish nationalism. Thus compelled by the international community, Israeli leaders will no longer then be considered as traitors to the party but “having yielded to overwhelming international pressure,” including that of their closest, most unconditional allies.
This pressure has no link – and should especially not be linked – with the bilateral treaties of co-operation and development aid and the alliances that Israelis or Palestinians have with this or that other country. On the contrary, this pressure, and in particular the acceptance of this solution by the Israelis, must be accompanied by international co-operation and support multiplied for both States. True peace feeds on development and prosperity without forgetting that the peoples must see in reality the beneficial effects of peace on their daily lives so that they can believe in it and begin to look at the others differently. They will then begin another kind of relationship – that of good neighbourliness, even if that will need time.
The question of the status of Jerusalem must be dealt with differently. Let’s be realistic. Modern Israel has already made Tel Aviv its economic and administrative capital and Ramallah is already the seat of the Palestinian Authority. Jerusalem is everyone’s. Jerusalem is the holy city and must have a particular status so that everyone can come and live their faith there. We discussed at great length the question of the status of Jerusalem during our talk at the Sant’ Egidio Meeting in Barcelona from 3 to 6 October 2010 [see appended document.]
So the international community, in all its institutions and through its influential members, must be that moral authority that fosters this project of two States living side by side in peace. Today, as in 1948, but this time in the service of peace!