Guest Commentary: New Year Dawns on the Perpetually Difficult Situation in the Middle East

The past few years have been indescribably heart-wrenching for the Israeli, as well as the Palestinian, people. The intifadah that raged since 2000, and only recently subsided, has taken an enormous toll on Israel, not only in terms of lives and economics, but also on the emotional and psychological well-being of the population.

However, in the darkest hours of despair, there emerged a ray of hope in the war-torn region. A change in Palestinian leadership, along with the Israeli decision to disengage from Gaza and parts of the West Bank, have sparked cautious but hopeful dialogue indicating a thawing of relations between the neighboring people.

Most people today, however, are not deluded enough to have the wild expectations for lasting peace that characterized international sentiment during the Oslo and Camp David eras. Rather than hanging all hopes for peace on dreams of immediate Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation, Israel has taken active steps to ensure that both people have the opportunity to live in relative quiet. Commencing this previous August, Israel began a difficult withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and certain West Bank settlements. This is a crucial step toward providing the Palestinian Authority more autonomy to govern its own people. Additionally, the resumption of peace negotiations between Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas marks the first time in five years that Israeli and Palestinian leaders have sat down to try to reconcile their problems.

However, terrorism is still an ongoing problem, as the recent Hamas suicide attacks were a deadly hindrance to peaceful relations between the two nations.

Although the politics in Israel have taken center stage in the recent years, Israel has a lot more to offer than to serve simply as an abstract case study on conflict. Israel is one of the world’s leading producers of computer technology and medical innovation, and this year, the San Diego Israel Alliance intends to bring a new face of Israel to UCSD to promote an Israel that is beyond the conflict.

Israel is a concept that every student can identify with, whether it is because of Israel’s fantastic rap music, technological innovation or even its fascinating cultural diversity; it is a dynamic and positive experience. With the positive progression of political events in Israel, it is now time to make Israel come alive.

Tali Shousterman is an events co-chair at the San Diego Israel Alliance.