[VIEWPOINT]Olive trees with rotten roots

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[VIEWPOINT]Olive trees with rotten roots

Olive trees have shared their joys and sorrows with the residents of the Mediterranean coasts for thousands of years. Olives are pickled in salt for food or pressed for oil. They are the most important crop in southern Europe, including Spain and Greece, and in the Near East, including Lebanon, Israel and Palestine. Olive oil is also one of the major exported farm products.
As they are essential products that can be converted into money, olives are symbols of wealth, prosperity and peace in the Near and Middle East.
Their importance is such that, reportedly, in the olive harvest season, when demand for workers is especially high, Middle Eastern countries have refrained from quarrelling, even though they’ve shed each other’s blood for thousands of years.
But this year, southern Lebanon cannot harvest olives because thousands of shots from cannons and missiles have overturned their olive fields.
A typical incident took place in the southern Lebanese village of Qana, where 60 civilians were killed by Israeli bombs on the morning of June 30.
The same goes for Israel. Along with buildings, olive farms were destroyed by hundreds of Katyusha rockets launched by the Lebanese armed group Hezbollah.
As residents on both sides of the border between Lebanon and Israel fled to other places, there is no one to nurture the olives that just began to bear berries as small as the last joint of a pinky-finger.
The countries can’t harvest olives, the symbol of peace, because the difference in their stances is too big.
The United States and Israel want to harvest the olive called “a proposal for perpetual peace.”
Their conception is that the threat of terrorists needs to be removed and democracy settled in the Middle East in order to build long-term peace everyone so longed for.
The two countries have persuaded Europe to induce a resolution at the United Nations Security Council for this purpose.
The gist of the resolution is to dispatch a global peacekeeping army to southern Lebanon to disarm Hezbollah and make a buffer zone near the border with Israel.
On the other hand, Arab countries are not content with the peace proposal of the United States and Israel, saying it does not make Israel’s withdrawal from the occupied territories clear.
Israel’s withdrawal from the occupied territories was prescribed in a UN Security Council resolution adopted in 1967.
Hezbollah has been engaged in an armed campaign against Israel, citing the stipulation of international law that “attacks on occupying forces are legal.”
It will not be easy to resolve the situation, even if the Security Council creates an armistice resolution sooner or later.
For Lebanon, where there is serious friction and conflict among Christians and other religious groups, including the Sunnis and Shiites, it will be no easy job to accept any decision.
If the Lebanese government army participates in the conflicts as an international peacekeeping force, Hezbollah could stage a civil war immediately.
The Lebanese government has taken the position that a comprehensive Middle East peace proposal, inclusive of Israel’s withdrawal from the occupied territories, is the only solution.
Israel is unlikely to retreat easily from its goal, which is to completely remove Hezbollah as a threat.
Arabs say George W. Bush set the removal of the Lebanese Hezbollah and the Palestinian Hamas as the last goals of his term in office.
Israel, too, is showing its determination to eliminate the terrorist threat in the Middle East once and for all this time.
The Iraqi government has already nearly collapsed and Syria and Iran are in trouble with terrorism and the development of nuclear weapons.
If Israel incapacitates Hezbollah, which is supported by Iran and Syria, and wipes out the resistance groups in the autonomous Palestinian territories, it may substantially enhance its security, which it has pursued for decades.
As of now, adopting the “comprehensive” proposal of the United States and Israel for perpetual peace seems to be the only alternative.
Hezbollah and Palestine have already said clearly many times that they will put down their arms if their occupied territories are returned.
The international community should examine the fundamental causes for the situation this time.
Olive trees with rotten roots cannot bear the berries of peace properly.
I hope the United States and Israel will not impose their one-sided peace proposal by force, or a vicious cycle of violence will arise from opposition to this proposal.

* The writer is the Beirut correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Seo Jung-min
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