The current bout of violence between Israel and Palestinian militants is now in its tenth day. I don’t know who started it ten days ago but I do know that until the two sides sit down and talk with each other, it won’t end. For sure, the present wave of attacks will eventually stop but only for a while. Sooner or later, someone will launch another attack, and the cycle of violence will recommence.
Will Palestinians ever be able to sit down at a table with Israelis and agree a permanent ceasefire? Or has the violence simply gone on for too long for them to be able to countenance such a thing?
I have no doubt that there are those on both sides of the conflict who hate their enemies so much the only outcome they will accept is their utter destruction. I choose to believe, however, that there are also those on both sides who in the right circumstances would be prepared to negotiate a peaceful solution to the conflict. If Republican and Loyalist terrorists in Northern Ireland can do it, anyone can.
What will it take for Israel and Palestinian leaders to sit down and talk? Again, I don’t know, but I do know it won’t happen until enough people of power on both sides realise that they will never be able to win by military means, only then will the space for talks appear.
There is no reason why the UK cannot be a force for good in the pursuit of peace between Israel and Palestinians. But we do need to get our own house in order as well. In the last few days, we have seen anti-semitic protests in London. I have read of death threats made against Jews, and of a police officer recorded shouting “Free Palestine” at a protest outside the Israeli embassy. Britain ought to be a place where Jews feel safe, but many do not. I wish, therefore, the government was more visible about what it is doing to help them. Soothing words from politicians and the police are not enough.
Speaking of that police officer – I read a comment on Twitter the other day that said she could reasonably ask why her actions are being investigated given that the Met allowed officers to take a knee at last year’s BLM protests and dance with people attending Pride. That is a fair comment. The best outcome to this investigation, therefore, would not be the officer’s reprimand or dismissal but the Commissioner of the Met Police confirming that from now on the police will follow of strict neutrality at all times in the course of their duty. It will be a shame that they cannot dance on such a happy day as Pride but the police exists for one cause, and one cause only: justice.