Billions of people are glued to their computers and TVs to get every morsel of updated information about swine flu -- where it is now, how to avoid it, how it started, etc. Israelis, who have a reputation for disregarding international opinion, have once again demonstrated their ironic behavior by renaming the flu the "Mexico flu" since swine is not a kosher product. And, while swine flu fortunately hasn't hit the Holy Land, there's a lot of other juicy stuff happening there right now that will once again flummox international peace negotiators once swine/Mexico flu is under control.
Despite the worldwide swine flu crisis, Wednesday is actually a day of celebration in Israel because it's Yom Ha'atzmaut, the country's independence day. Israel is now in its 60th decade and has much to celebrate because it's an amazing country that has achieved much in its short history. However, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues to be a major thorn in the long-term peace, security and prosperity of the nation.
The newest prime minister, the arch-conservative Benjamin Netanyahu, isn't helping the ailing peace process much with his appointment of radical right-winger Avigdor Lieberman as Foreign Minister. And Netanyahu boldly "has refused to endorse the notion of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel as a solution for the conflict." On the flip side, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas refused to identify Israel as a Jewish state. "I do not accept it," Mr. Abbas said in a speech in Ramallah, in the West Bank. "It is not my job to give a description of the state." With bitter fighting words coming from both camps, it deflates most opportunities to move the peace process forward at the highest levels right now.
Despite the stalled peace process, we shouldn't give up hope. Bold individuals are demonstrating their commitment to dialogue in an attempt to keep drops of the peace process alive. Most recently, the local Los Angeles radio station KPCC held a mock "peace summit" with US Consulate General Jacob Dayan and Hussein Ibish, Senior Fellow of the American Task Force on Palestine. I don't know if US Mid-East peace negotiator George Mitchell, Netanyahu or Abbas tuned in. But, the guests and the host demonstrated a greater commitment to reviving the peace process and articulating a realistic vision for a solution to the decades-long conflict in Israel-Palestine. And, an American Jew named Ronald Levy, married to an Israeli woman, just won the King Faisal Prize in International Medicine, known as the "Arab Nobel Peace Prize." He and his family were treated with utmost respect and honor while in Saudi Arabia to receive the award.
We can only hope that Abbas and Netanyahu's parties can follow the lead of these courageous individuals and have the courage to re-enter the negotiation process. We can each do our part to learn about conflict-resolution dialogue. Download free lesson plans that offer you and kids of all ages the opportunity to become educated about how conflict-resolution is a critical tool for our own lives. Indeed, perhaps Abbas, Netanyahu and Mitchell could take a cue from kids who understand and practice these important skills.
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