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Europe

Germany Supports Peace Initiative in Israel

In an effort to gain foreign support for its attempts to stop the violence in the Middle East, the Israeli peace movement has turned to German politicians.

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How much longer?

After German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer’s four-day visit to Israel and Palestine, the German Green Party invited members of the Israeli Peace Now movement to come to Germany and speak about possible solutions for ending the cycle of violence in the Middle East.

The most recent attacks on Wednesday morning in which 11 Palestinians were killed have made the Peace Now efforts even more crucial than ever. According to a spokesperson for Ariel Sharon, Israel intends to continue wielding force against the occupied territories until Palestine renounces violence. But not all Israelis are willing to go along with his policies.

Over the weekend some 20,000 Israeli peace activists participated in a march and rally organized by Peace Now and the Peace Coalition in Tel-Aviv under the slogan "Get Out of the Territories – Get Back to Ourselves." The demonstration was the first since Prime Minister Sharon came to power over a year ago, and marks the end of a long period of silence and inactivity.

Professor Dan Jacobson, founding member of Peace Now and member of the opposition Meretz Party, criticized Sharon on Tuesday. He explained his group’s position to the Green Party.

"Sharon, who of course was elected with a vast majority and still enjoys quite a majority in the polls, is criticized more and more, not so much for what he is doing – those futile military actions that he is initiating – but he is being criticized increasingly for what he is not doing, namely providing a political perspective."

Both Jacobson and Peace Now spokesperson Didi Remez, see a positive development in the Israeli peace movement. The recent refusal of numerous Israeli reserve officers to take up duty in the Palestinian territories has contributed significantly to the revived peace demonstrations, they say.

And just as the peace movement begins to gain momentum, it becomes even more important that foreign politicians support Peace Now efforts, say Jacobson and Remez. European politicians such as Foreign Minister Fischer play a critical role as negotiators and can exert influence on both sides to resume the peace process.

It’s crucial, says Remez, that European leaders continue visiting the Middle East and continue working to bring the two sides together, no matter how hopeless the situation may seem. Israeli society is anything but a unified block, the Peace Now spokesperson says.

"It is extremely important that European audiences recognize that Israeli society is complex. And Israel is not about Sharon. If this criticism of the Sharon government is translated – as I understand is happening in certain segments of the political European scene – into an anti-Israeli posture, this will have the effect of weakening the Israeli peace camp which is just right now reemerging!"

Christian Sterzing, a member of parliament for the Greens and a representative on the foreign policy committee, has endorsed the efforts of Peace Now. Europe needs to intensify its efforts to restore peace in the Middle East and give the region a new political future, Sterzing says.

"The violence is not responsible for the loss of a political perspective, but rather the violence is a result of the loss of a political perspective."

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