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Issues of the Day We Can't Afford Despair, A Comment on Terror in Jerusalem

Despite the events of the last few days in Jerusalem and elsewhere in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip we can't afford despair. While the situation is dispiriting, once the storm calms it will be time to pick up the pieces and move on.


The question is, what can we learn from the current cycle of violence?


The immediate trigger appears to be provocation by zealots on both sides of the Israel-Palestinian divide concerning the Temple Mount. Inflammatory visits and rumor-mongering served as a catalyst for the "lone wolf" stabbings, isolated but deadly attacks on Jews mainly by East Jerusalem Palestinian youth inflamed by passions concerning the Al Aksa Mosque. The religious fanaticism and irresponsibility of both Jews and Moslems, including a government minister and an Arab parliamentarian as well as paid provocateurs had ample disaffection to feed on: the current status quo, specifically the absence of hope that there are better days ahead.


Terror's Far Reach

The wave of terror struck me indirectly today when, pretty much at the eleventh hour, I made a decision to cancel the graduation ceremony of a college program that I direct and which was scheduled to take place in Jerusalem this afternoon. I waited as long as I could before making that call. I don't believe in capitulating to terrorism and I also hoped that conditions in the city would ease. But given the spreading violence on the streets and buses, I decided that reducing risks was the most judicious thing to do.


Terror not only kills, it upturns even the best-laid plans.


Although Mahmud Abbas, the head of the Palestinian Authority suggested at his recent speech at the UN General Assembly that he was discontinuing security cooperation with Israel, this has not been evidenced in the field. In light of the jihadist threat faced by both the PA and the Israeli government they are likely to continue working in concert.


A Truer Cooperation

Though joint activity might quench the fires now blazing in Jerusalem, the Territories and within the Arab sector in Israel for a time, this is far from the kind of cooperation that should be aspired to. Further, the current political impasse promotes an insidious form of cooperation, one practiced by Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the rest of the Palestinian rejectionist front (those groups rejecting coexistence with Israel both in the PLO and outside of it) and rejectionists on the Israeli side, which regretfully include members of the Netanyahu government's coalition and groups to its political right. Obviously, this is also not the kind of cooperation good people on both sides of the divide should strive for.


Another form of dead-end collaboration is practiced by naysayers in ruling circles in both Jerusalem and Ramallah who either out of cynicism or genuine disappointment pronounce that there is no one to talk to on the either side of the conflict. This has been a favorite evasion adopted by both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas whenever the winds blow in a direction contrary to their political convenience.


But as the events of the last two weeks show, hiding one's head in the sand and preferring the status quo to courageous leadership aimed at achieving a two-state solution, which remains the most sound option on the table for resolving this bitter and erosive conflict, is unsustainable. Blood on the streets of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Afula and elsewhere in Jerusalem and throughout the West Bank amply attests to that.


Courage and the Path Ahead

Israel once had a leader who displayed the kind of boldness that we require today. Yitzhak Rabin saw the path to peace and dared to tread along it before a Jewish rejectionist gunned him down. Israelis must promote Rabin's vision of cooperation and coexistence and build bridges toward two separate sovereign states respecting each other's security and working toward neighborly relations. There is no other path forward but that one.


The 20th anniversary of  Yitzhak Rabin assassination will be commemorated on Oct. 25th. At that time Israelis and others concerned with the future of our nation should rededicate ourselves to Rabin's legacy and demand a viable political solution based on sanity, justice and reconciliation.


We should also call on the Palestinians to demand the same.


Despair affects both Arab and Jewish youth, who see no light ahead and come to believe that the conflict is inevitable.


We owe it to them and to ourselves to show them a different path and to pave it.  

© Yosef Gotlieb, . All rights reserved