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Opinion: New Police Cars Not Enough for Middle East Peace

Mideast talks in Berlin might not have produced dramatic results, says DW's Peter Philipp, but if the international community insists that Israelis and Palestinians compromise, progress could be made.

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Tuesday's meeting in Berlin barely deserved to be called a Middle East conference. Generally, the term refers to gatherings geared either to kick-starting or furthering peace efforts, and Berlin was no such gathering.

Nonetheless, one positive development was that representatives from over forty countries said they were ready to offer the Palestinians financial support in reinforcing their police and legal institutions. After all, the international community sees functioning security and justice systems as prerequisites for any Palestinian state which is to peacefully co-exist with an Israel based on equally functioning security and justice systems.

However, this was by no means the only reason the German government called the conference in Berlin. In Annapolis late last year, Israeli and Palestinian leaders pledged to reach a two-state agreement this year. This might be a deadline which no one has any faith in, but Berlin nonetheless decided that practical support was called for, not least in order to allay any Palestinian suspicions sparked by gushing statements made by German politicians and the chancellor in particular on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Israeli state.

It was clear that Germany was out of the question as an honest broker, simply because Berlin was bound to fail where far more influential mediators had failed before. But Germany is still determined to do its bit, helping both the Israeli and the Palestinian sides on the grounds that lasting peace will only be possible when both sides are stable.

No guarantee of normalization

Peter Philipp

Peter Philipp

But this will take more than a few new patrol cars, courthouses, police stations and prisons. However important they may be, they alone are no guarantee of normalization. This will only be achieved when both sides actively do their best to remove obstacles on the road to peace instead of forever erecting new ones.

Israel also needs to remove the road blocks that blight the Palestinians' lives and it needs to freeze its settlement activity in the Palestinian territories. The Palestinians, meanwhile, need to put an end to the inner struggles between Fatah and Hamas and present a united front willing to compromise in the bid for peace.

Commendable as recent statements made by President Mahmoud Abbas may be, he does not represent all Palestinians. But since the planned state is designed for the entire Palestinian people, they all need to take part in the peace efforts. The international community should demand from both Israelis and Palestinians that its conditions are met.

Peter Philipp is Deutsche Welle's chief correspondent and an expert on the Middle East. (jp)

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