It’s been one week exactly since the Young Fabians Delegation left for our trip to Israel and Palestine, and coincidentally, we return from our trip on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. At Ben Gurion Airport, security is tense, but this time no one from our delegation has been asked for further questioning.
It is hard to say what the outcomes of our trip will be. Every delegate came from a different background and with different expectations. Although all had approached the trip with an open mind, they had brought certain preconceptions about life in the conflict with them. The one thing that has become clear is that these have been challenged and often dispelled.
Nothing about the Middle Eastern conflict is black and white. After an intensive week of meetings, field visits and socialising, we have barely scratched the surface of the conflict.
The one thing that seems to have become clear to me is that time is running out. Palestinian statehood is crucial on order to support the moderate forces within Palestine. Before this trip, I was under the impression that only a small and extreme minority was still questioning Israel’s right to exist. I was shocked to find out that this view is far wider spread that I had expected. The current Palestinian leadership is committed to a peaceful and stable two state solution, but they need a success soon to placate extreme forces within their ranks.
The outbreaks of violence and the resulting ascent of Hamas after Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 make its reluctance to unilateral withdrawal from further settlements partly understandable. However, Israel’s continued presence in Hebron, which does not seem to be supported by a majority within Israel, continues to not only violate Palestinian human rights, but is a symbol of resistance around which anti-Israeli forces can rally. Israel has to find a way to compensate the settlers and recognize the sacrifices which they will have to make, but Benjamin Netanyahu needs to find the political courage to withdraw from H2 soon.
Palestine’s bid at the UN seems to be based rather on despair than on actual hope of success. A negotiated solution is certainly preferable, but Israel should use the General Assembly meeting as a chance to engage with the Palestinian leadership rather than categorically oppose their proposal.
A week in the holy land has provided unlimited amounts of food for thought, but the ‘holy grail’ remains elusive. The obvious strategy is to strengthen moderate forces and condemn violence.
The situation seems often bleak and stalled, but despite this, I leave with a feeling of hope.
Marie-Noelle Loewe is International Officer for the Young Fabians and the organiser of the Young Fabian Middle East Trip 2011.