By Kevin LaFrancis
Is now the time to end 66 years of bitter conflict?
Palestinian Liberation Organization’s Ambassador Maen Areikat discussed the urgency of compromise with Israel, which includes the re-establishment of a Palestinian state, at the Stamp Student Union on Thursday afternoon.
The Palestine compromise would force Israel to return the West Bank, East Jerusalem and 22 percent of a territory originally controlled by Palestine, according to Areikat.
“We will accept any type of military compromise short of an Israeli military presence in the future Palestinian state,” said Areikat.
The efforts are the latest in a series of peace initiatives to resolve the land conflict between Palestinians and Israelis, an ongoing struggle that began in 1947.
Arabs threatened to take military action to prevent a United Nations plan to partition the Palestine state, and when Israel declared independence the following year, war broke out.
Agreements in 1949 led to Jordan controlling the West Bank and East Jerusalem, while Syria and Egypt controlled other parts of the territory.
In the 1967 Six Day War, Israel attacked these Arab-controlled areas and have continued to live in most of the lands today.
Israelis think the territory is not “occupied,” but “disputed” because no borders were formally established and the Palestinians originally seized the lands unlawfully.
Instead of passively disputing the lands and further isolating the country from its neighbors, Israel has an opportunity to be actively involved in crises in Arab countries by accepting compromise, according to the ambassador.
With an unknown future ahead for many Arab states in the region, Areikat thinks that Israel can begin to expand its regional political influence if it comes to an agreement.
“They have to accept that they are part of the Middle East. They cannot pretend to be Europe. They need to grab the opportunity and assert themselves as part of the Middle East,” said Areikat.
If the Israelis do not work to resolve the issue in the coming months, Arab countries will begin to apply for membership in the United Nations and pursue other international political arenas to voice complaints, said Areikat.
However, Areikat made it clear that it is in the best interest of both parties to work towards a solution immediately.
“We need courageous and resolute decisions to end this conflict once and for all,” said Areikat.
The diverse audience, which included Jews, Muslims, faculty and students, appreciated Areikat’s discourse.
“Areikat gave a very moderate, straightforward opinion of Palestine’s point of view,” said Paul Scham, the executive director of the Gildenhorn Institute of Israeli Studies.
However, there was one issue Scham had with Areikat’s discourse.
“I thought that [Areikat] skewed over some of the complexities of negotiations…there were more agreements offered by Israel than he implied,” said Scham.
The School of Public Policy, which worked over the past couple months to bring Areikat to campus, has also hosted the Russian and Irish ambassadors.
“It was a great experience to hear Areikat’s perspective,” said Don Kettle, the Dean of the School of Public Policy.