By Mohammad Darawshe (for Safe Democracy)

Mohammad Darawshe writes on how a small window of opportunity has been opened for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and Israel and Syria. The possibility for peace is existent. Peace agreements are already being established, with provisions to return the Golan Heights to Syria, and create an independent Palestinian state in exchange for security promises to the Israelis. In Darawshe‘s opinion, the people of all three nations are tired of the constant fighting. What are needed now are strong leaders who will have the courage to push for peace through adversity, to fight for what is in the best interests of their people, and to set a positive example in the Middle East.

Mohammad Darawshe is a political analyst. He is cofounder of One Voice Movement, for peace.

TO HEAR HASSAN NARALLAH’S SPEECH AT HEZBOLLAH’S VICTORY RALLY, it sounded like the Middle East was on the brink of another violent encounter between Hezbollah and the Israeli military. But to listen to the courting messages being sent back and forth between Israeli political leaders and the Syrian foreign minister, makes conflict seem very distant. Add to these the talks for the possible release of the kidnapped Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, from Gaza, and the discussion of an exchange of prisoners between Israel and Palestine, and there is some room for hope. And witness the forging of good relationships between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Omert, and the hope is replaced by founded optimism.

Yet, our optimism must be guarded. The possibility for peace between Israel and Syria, and between Israel and the Palestinians, is existent, but the window of opportunity is small.

The people of both nations are exhausted with continued fighting. They desire a solution, and the requirements for peace have almost been defined: A Palestinian independent state beside the state of Israel, based on the 1967 borders but with some border correction to allow for Israeli sovereignty along the wall, and to reduce the amount of people who need to be evacuated from their homes, as well as the connection of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in some creative manner. The majority of Israelis will agree to the plan, and so will the majority of Palestinians. But their political groups will undoubtedly oppose it.

The key problem of the Israeli Palestinian conflict is leadership. Both Olmert and Abbas lack the charisma and vision to be able to forge a path for peace through adversity. But if able to overcome their weaknesses and gather enough courage, they will find that the majority of their people are behind them.

On the Syrian front, the pending agreement is very similar: the return of the Golan Heights to Syrian control in exchange for proper security arrangements for Israel. The agreement will find a great deal of support in both the Syrian and Israeli publics. But again, the real question is whether or not Bashar Assad and Ehud Olmert are courageous enough to act according to their people’s will, and in the public interest.

We can hope that the acid taste of blood left in everyone’s mouths from the last Lebanon War will deter these nations from beginning another cycle of violence. Leaders, who claim the right to make war, can also claim the mandate to make peace.

With the window of opportunity open, the leaders should seize the chance and encourage their people to move forward for the better.

If peace is achieved here, then it may very well be achieved throughout the Middle East. Other Arab countries will follow the example that is being set now.

A positive message must be sent to the Arab population in the Middle East, as well as to the Israeli people, that peace is possible.

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