Israelis: peace will come if suicide bombing ends
By Anton Vidgen
If the Palestinians were to end terrorism and put a stop to suicide bombers, Neil Lazarus believes peace in the Middle East would be much more attainable.
An internationally acclaimed expert on the Middle East, Lazarus has advised organizations ranging from the World Bank to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and currently lives outside Jerusalem in Israel.
"What we're saying in Israel is we need a partner in peace and until the Palestinians say we're going to stop using explosions and targeting children in restaurants, there won't be peace," Lazarus said, adding Palestinians need to return to negotiations to work out any differences. "They've got to stop terrorism; then everything is possible."
One of the biggest obstacles to peace he cited was Yasser Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization. "Peace can always be achieved. The question is whether Arafat can change," he said. "As soon as Arafat [and] as soon as the Palestinians want to make peace with Israel, they'll find a government there waiting to negotiate with them."
Lazarus said Israel's government, led by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, is committed towards a two-state solution by agreeing to the peace document known as the Road Map, but at the moment the process cannot move forward.
"The Road Map has stopped because they're using terrorism, so I would ask anyone who represents the PLO, or the Palestinians, or the Palestinian Authority if they're really serious about peace, why use terrorism and why not use the negotiating table," he said. "It's as simple as that.
"The difference between us and them is that they target civilians," Lazarus said. "There's no other result or consequence of sending a suicide bomber onto a bus or into a restaurant than killing civilians. So the Palestinians are, in many ways, guilty of war crimes because they're targeting civilians."
The bottom line, Lazarus said, was the Palestinians have to get back to the negotiating table. "I'm not saying they have to agree, they can disagree, but negotiate," he said. "Israel is committed to a negotiated settlement of the peace process and if, and when, the Palestinians stop violence, then everything is possible."
On the topic of cease-fires, Lazarus said they were often exploited by the Palestinians to re-arm. "The last cease-fire was stopped because of a bus bombing in Jerusalem," he said. "Cease-fire is desirable as long as it's not for re-armament."
Lazarus said the United States and many governments can help Israel in the peace process. "But at the end of the day, you can't force people to make peace."