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Opting for peace in the Middle East

11 January 2009

With shock and deep dismay the Socialist International has been following the abhorrent violence in Gaza into which the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has now descended, with the tragic and totally unacceptable loss of human life and the mounting humanitarian crisis.
The International has been closely involved in the Middle East region for many years, working side by side with both its Israeli and Palestinian members, not only in the advancement of the political ideals and values we share, but in securing a horizon of peace for all the peoples of the region. In this journey, a great deal has been achieved together – the acceptance of the two-state solution, which was the logical step forward from mutual recognition, as nurtured in very early meetings and discussions of the Socialist International with leaders of both the Israeli Labour Party and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, was a natural and fundamental conclusion for all involved. A second conclusion which distinctly emerged as well from those early discussions, was that the only possible way to make progress for all parties was through dialogue and negotiation. It has been then upon these very foundations that the international community has been able to register advances in the search for peace or, when they have not existed, has had to face failure and the tragedy of conflict and war.

Recognising from the very beginning the enormous complexity of the conflict and the great difficulties that would be encountered in trying to achieve peace, the advancement in the region of our shared ideals of tolerance, democracy, institution building and responsible government with our Middle East partners has been of crucial importance. In this context, the protagonists today must assume full responsibility for their actions and their consequences.

Every military escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has resolved nothing while resulting only in greater human tragedy and deeper fear and distrust. The international outcry at the unacceptable violence and loss of life will continue as the people of the Middle East rightly deserve our scrutiny. Until those who carry out, condone or otherwise perpetuate the violence finally bring it to an end the people of the world have a right to protest.
The violence must stop immediately. Equally urgent is how to carry forward the fundamentals of a Palestinian state and the future for the peoples of the region. The underlying choice for both Israelis and Palestinians is what kind of society they want to live in. We, in the Socialist International, are convinced that both peoples want to co-exist in peace with each other, that both communities ultimately do not choose to live in a society geared by confrontation. Palestinians long for normalcy in their lives, as do Israelis, and neither people want to build a future where violence continues to dictate daily life.
A crossroads has been reached where the option for peace marks the way forward while choosing the other direction will lead only to human tragedy, on a path of regression, fragility and heightened insecurity. Peace is at stake today in the region and it is for the Israeli and Palestinian people to decide which future they want.
It is past time, long past time, to turn the tide and to bring the violence to an end, to act beyond the narrow scope of political self-interest and in the interest of the greater good. The principal actors in the Middle East will ultimately determine whether peace is achievable and the people who today are suffering the most from the violence will render their judgement accordingly.

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