Peace in the Middle East: international co-operation and learning from Northern Ireland are key

The role of the Arab league and the US, and the lessons that can be learned from the Northern Ireland peace process, are key to reaching peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians, says Vijay Mehta

The Arab League initiative for peace

The Arab Peace Initiative (API), which is an extraordinary document, would require all Arab countries to normalise relations with Israel in return for comprehensive Arab-Israel peace. The plan offers full recognition of Israel but only if it returned fully to the 4 June 1967 lines, including along the Golan Heights and in east Jerusalem. It also requires a “just solution” for Palestinian refugees, which will bring security, stability and prosperity to the region. It is also worth considering France’s proposal to have European-run border monitors between the Gaza strip and Israel, in an effort to end hostilities and encourage peace.

The role of US in brokering peace

The attempts of successive US presidents, including the present Obama administration, to bring peace are laudable but questionable. Attempts to bring peace in the region can only be genuine if the US stops funding Israel and its allies with billions of dollars worth of the latest high-tech weaponry. Israel’s military aggression against Palestinians amounts to possible war crimes and crimes against humanity. The UN and governments across the world should enforce a legally binding military embargo on Israel similar to that imposed on South Africa during apartheid.

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Learning from the Northern Ireland peace process

Northern Ireland has become relatively peaceful and prosperous following the Good Friday agreement brokered in 1998. This model is being increasingly applied by political leaders to solve other conflicts around the world. Some of the lessons learned that could be applied in the Israel-Palestine conflict:

1. There should be a lasting ceasefire to end violence as all parties are fed up with 60 years of infighting.

2. Start negotiations between all parties in the conflict – including sworn enemies – in a trusted manner, for sensible solutions.

3. Agreement for a two-state solution in which Palestinian statehood is recognised and Israel’s identity and right to exist is acknowledged.

4. Agreement for equitable sharing of scarce resources, such as oil, water food, land.

5. There is a need for strong leaders to help communities develop trust and close and friendly relations without excluding any group.

6. Genuine efforts at decommissioning weapons and prisoner release.

7. Setting up an Israeli-Arab Council to settle differences instead of resolving them on the battlefield.

8. No rigid preconditions for achieving the objectives of political peace process.

9. Israel needs to adopt more humane approach towards the people of Gaza and lift the blockade and barriers. Palestinian groups should reciprocate with a ceasefire and stop all acts of violence against Israeli people.