Give peace a chance

THE flare up of tensions in Jerusalem yesterday following the attempts by some Jewish extremist groups to march on to Al Aqsa mosque and Haram al Sharif underscores the fleeting nature of peace in the Middle East.

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Published: Mon 11 Apr 2005, 10:25 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 6:27 PM

Israeli hardline groups are evidently trying hard to derail the peace process by provoking Palestinian militants into retaliatory action. While the world is awaiting the final phase of the roadmap and settlement to begin, some groups do not want Israel to go ahead with the peace process.

As thousands of Palestinians marched towards the Al Aqsa, it appeared as though the short spell of peace — a welcome result of the extraordinary handshake between Abbas and Sharon at Sharm el Shaik — had met its premature death. The Palestinians have been agitated by the Jewish groups’ designs on Al Aqsa, the most potent symbol of their struggle. The killing of three Palestinian youths by Israeli forces on Saturday further fuelled their anger.

The Israeli police have, however, managed to thwart the extremists’ bid to target the holy mosque for now and thus prevent a disaster of epic proportions. Consequences of such an extremist adventure are too horrifying to imagine. Al Aqsa is not only important to the Palestinians but is revered by the Muslims everywhere. Thousands of Israeli policemen cordoned off the area surrounding the Harm al Sharif complex and managed to keep the extremists away.

However, this could be a dry run by the Jewish groups for a real mission at a later date. The hardliners have hinted that Sunday’s show was a test run for the withdrawal in the summer, when security forces will be employed to evacuate settlers from 25 settlements in Gaza. Extremists hope to keep troops busy in Jerusalem, and thus sabotage the pullout.

We would like to hope that Sharon will be able to rein in the extremists as they are his responsibility. He knows them best and he has to keep his house in order. Besides, the Israeli PM’s very political survival depends on the pullout having completely committed himself to the initiative.

For their part, the Palestinians must exercise utmost restraint and should not present any opportunity or excuse to Israeli hawks to break the ceasefire and sabotage the Gaza withdrawal. The best thing to do is to let Abu Mazen do his job and handle the situation as he deems best. The media must desist the temptation to play on the inflamed passions and highlight the real challenges facing the Palestinians. The Palestinians must

keep their cool in the face of all attempts to provoke them and must not play into the hands of hardliners providing an excuse to abandon the roadmap because this is what Israel wants. Palestinians must do everything possible to keep the peace process alive.

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