Tunnel Vision

The explosion of violence in the Middle East this September was illuminating. The fact that Israel's opening of an already existing tunnel could trigger this level of violence exposes the depth of brokenness between the Palestinians and Israelis-a fact not to be obscured by genuine progress made in the peace process to that point.

That brokenness won't be healed by any merely superficial measures. The wounds will continue to fester unless the parties begin truly to address the roots of the division.

But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seems intent on avoiding just that. His insistence on keeping the new tunnel open despite the obvious provocation it caused is a trifle compared to his refusal to honor the basic tenets of the Oslo peace accords-in particular, the agreement to withdraw Israeli troops from the West Bank city of Hebron, which was to have been accomplished eight months ago.

Netanyahu's tunnel fiasco also underscores the profound importance to Middle East peace of negotiating a shared solution to Jerusalem, a Holy City not only for Jews but for Christians and Muslims as well; a center not only for Israeli national life, but for that of Palestinians as well. The needs of all these parties must be honored if we are ever to move beyond a hair-trigger truce in the city.

Before the September crisis, steps toward peace, though slow and halting, were real. The city of Ramallah, for example, had been slowly coming back to life. In the aftermath of its transfer from Israeli control to that of the Palestinian Authority, those who live in that used-to-be-resort and university town had noted a decided resurgence of Palestinian life. Shops and restaurants, parks and sidewalks-once tensed for confrontation during the years of open hostility-had begun to hope for a return to "normalcy." Something similar might be said of Jericho and of some other areas now formally under Palestinian control in the West Bank.

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Sojourners Magazine November-December 1996
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