Although I had lived in Egypt and traveled widely throughout the Middle East on five previous occasions, in many ways my visit to Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza in late April as part of a fact-gathering delegation was my most difficult. The deteriorating situation and the qualitative changes in the occupied territories are related directly to the implementation of the policies of the Begin government, which have served to increase the level of tension and provoke violent confrontation between Israelis and Palestinians.
Within a few weeks after I returned to the United States, Israel launched its full-scale invasion into southern Lebanon. This massive push to Beirut has been devastating in human and economic terms for all people in the region. In addition, many have argued that, contrary to Begin's stated aim of peace, this invasion has undermined significantly the probability of a negotiated settlement between Israel and the Palestinian people.
It is not surprising, therefore, to find that many people are quite pessimistic regarding the future of this troubled part of the world. On the other hand, there are positive and encouraging signs of hope even now when the prospects for a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict appear particularly dim. Perhaps the most heartening development is the burgeoning peace movement within Israel. By raising serious moral and political questions in a public forum, this movement is helping create a climate in which change can occur.