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Israel Today: Peace Now

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Hagit Ofran's front door is headline news. Photos of the graffiti death threat sprayed on it have shocked not just the Peace Now activist herself but Israeli society at large.

The right wing attack was clearly a 'Price Tag' response to Peace Now's landmark high court Migron victory and the ruling that the illegal settlement, built on private Palestinian land should be demolished by March 2012.

As Peace Now's expert on West Bank and East Jerusalem settlements, Hagit's name is synonymous with the movement that is at the heart of the Israeli Palestinian conflict.

"Peace Now sees the settlements as the main obstacle for peace and we want Israelis to recognise them as such", she explains. "Since 1978 we have been pushing for a Two States for Two Peoples solution based on the Green Line Border but we need to convince more Israelis to trust the Palestinians as peace partners". A task ridden with obstacles posed by the turbulent Middle East politics.

The past few weeks alone saw Palestinian leadership draw an agreement
which alarmed Israelis as it paves the way for Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other radical groups to join the PLO. Abu Mazen also merited Netanyahu's criticism after the Palestinian leader's meeting with eleven Palestinian terrorists in Turkey. Released as part of the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange the group included internet murderer' Amina Muna who admitted to have been 'excited' by the barbaric Ramallah Lynching Incident at which she was present.

"The Palestinian leadership seems to be putting extremist murderers up on a pedestal", responded Netanyahu's spokesman Mark Regev echoing the thoughts of many. Indeed, to many Israelis, including Peace Now supporters, Abu Mazen's choices are a vindication of a fundamentally violent philosophy that disqualifies the Palestinians as partners for peace.

Not referring to any events in particular, optimist Hagit believes that "should Israel end the occupation, the motivation for the vast majority of Palestinian hostility towards it and indeed the attacks against it will be gone". Hagit stresses the Arab Peace Initiative that is reaffirmed every year since 2002.

The initiative declares that when Israel is to make peace with the Palestinians and with a Palestinian state in place, all of the Arab countries will make peace with Israel.

"Peace Now is driven by a pro peace agenda and is not the extremist organization some claim it to be", explains Hagit. "Our two state solution is in fact based on the idea of self determination for the Jewish people".

The movement does not support the banning of Israeli establishments as a way of pressurising its government and condemns violence stemming from both sides be it settlers' hostility towards Palestinians and IDF soldiers, or Palestinians' violence towards settlers such as the killing of the Fogel family at the Itamar settlement.

While divided over the way forward, Israelis recognise the occupation as a tragic consequence of the 1967 war. All yearn for a solution but are thoroughly troubled by the prospect of a neighbouring hostile Muslim state

'In addition to these concerns' says undeterred Hagit, 'there is the issue of settlers' resistance.. hundreds of thousands of settlers will have to be removed from their homes crushing their dream, marking a major theological and personal crisis for these families.'
Peace Now believes that settlers will protest but will eventually leave peacefully without using violence against Israeli forces. 'It will be a long and painful process of rehabilitation for the settlers to rebuild new lives and new ideology in Israel', concludes Hagit, 'but it will be for the best for Israel and eventually for them too. Inshhalla'