Chance to turn to peace and co-existence between Israel and Palestine -- Akahata editorial, February 10

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas agreed on a cease-fire. In the first Israeli-Palestinian summit in four years and four months, Abbas announced a cessation of all forms of violence against Israelis. Sharon responded with a statement promising a halt to military operations against Palestinians.

Maintaining the cease-fire and moving forward toward peace is indispensable to the peace process in the Middle East as well as for international peace and security.

No more tragedies

Over 4,000 people have been killed in a cycle of Israeli provocative military action and Palestinian violence during the last 5 years alone. No doubt both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples share the wish to make the cease-fire a turning point for peace.

On the Palestinian side, the extremist group Hamas has reportedly said that they are not bound by the cease-fire declaration and will closely monitor Israeli moves. In Israel, there is strong opposition to a withdrawal from the Gaza strip.

The first test will be whether the two governments can abide by the cease-fire.

The Palestinian president stated that the cease-fire is only the first step in the right direction. The Israeli prime minister said that their withdrawal plan from Gaza is the starting point of a peace process.

The roadmap is a three-phased peace plan proposed in the spring of 2003 by the United States with Russia, the European Union (EU) and the United Nations. For the 1st stage, they call for an end to acts of violence on both sides and a freeze on Israeli settlements. The 2nd stage would be devoted to establishing a provisional Palestinian state, followed by the 3rd stage at which the provisional Palestinian state would be recognized internationally and begin the process concerning demarcation of borders, return of Palestinian refugees, the title to Jerusalem, and the winding up of the settlements.

It is important that both parties have expressed commitment to the peace process despite some delicate differences over details concerning the roadmap.

After WWII, the United Nations adopted a resolution that the Jewish state and the Palestinian Arab state should co-exist in this region. Despite repeated proposals and negotiations to this effect, regional wars and violence have hampered the implementation of the U.N. resolution. No Palestinian people's state based on the principle of national self-determination has been established, while Israel was founded. Israel is illegally occupying areas that should be reserved for a Palestinian state.

The Japanese Communist Party has maintained that the Israeli occupation of these areas must end and the Palestinian people's right to national self-determination must be achieved as the principle of resolving the problem. It has also called for the Israel's right to exist as a state to be recognized.

U.S. and Israel must observe legal obligations

In order to secure the cease-fire and peace in this region, the U.S. responsibility is extremely serious.

Israel is still increasing its settlements and constructing 6-meter high division walls along the West Bank of the Jordan River. Its troops withdrew from Gaza, but still remain in the West Bank. The U.S. is supporting this. Following the talks with Abbas, U.S. Secretary of State Rice told reporters that she was concerned about the "road of walls" and "settlement activities". However, she didn't stopped short of stating that the U.S. will change its policy for the region.

Last July, at the International Court of Justice's recommendation that ruled Israel's occupation, settlements, and the wall construction as illegal, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution calling on member states to observe legal obligations. Israel and the U.S. opposed this, while most of the world supported. The only way out of the conflict is to take actions abiding by law and justice as called for by the international community. (end)

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