For some years now the craftsmen of peace have been working
to bring about Arab-Israeli reconciliation. Diplomats would
no doubt say that steps have been taken in the right direction.
Nobody knows what the future holds in store, but there will
surely be many more obstacles on the road to a lasting harmony
in the region. Still, hope must prevail.
Although people are now geared up for peace, this has not
always been the case. Apart from the Israeli-Egyptian peace
treaty of 1979, the situation was deadlocked for 26 long years
which were marked by a succession of deadly regional conflicts.
Since 1967, the people in the occupied territories have known
a desperate status quo that engendered both resignation and
revolt, most notably in the form of the intifada. So, for
years any prospect of peaceful relations between Israelis
and Palestinians seemed impossible.
Amid these tensions, the ICRC has patiently worked to restore
some measure of confidence between occupiers and occupied
by trying to ensure compliance with the Fourth Geneva Convention.
As long as people’s dignity is threatened, all hope
of peace is in vain. If, on the other hand, the rules of international
humanitarian law in the event of occupation are applied, they
attest to the occupier’s resolve to respect the occupied
population. Among other things, these laws forbid the destruction
of property and the expulsion of the inhabitants of the occupied
territories. They also specify that detainees must be treated
humanely and be allowed to receive visits from their families.
For almost 30 years, the ICRC has worked to enhance respect
for these international norms and has systematically reported
violations of them. It has kept constant and close contact
with the leadership of both sides. It is convinced that these
painstaking efforts have helped preserve a glimmer of hope
and have paved the way for peace initiatives.
The signing of the Oslo Declaration two years ago marked
a turning point in the region, and the Movement now has to
adapt to this new political reality. With support from the
Federation, the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) is working
towards greater unity and efficiency and, for their part,
participating National Societies are helping the PRCS to develop
rehabilitation programmes, especially in the medical field.
The Movement’s current experience in Israel, the occupied
and the autonomous territories can be seen as a test of our
ability to work together effectively and creatively. If we
succeed, we will have demonstrated concretely the precious
complementarity of the Movement’s components and, in
so doing, we will have proven our capacity to bring people
closer together in the name of our principle of humanity.