In a speech yesterday at the Michigan Union, Chuck Freilich, a former top Israeli defense official said he thought a resolution in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians was still far away.
About 75 people attended the speech, sponsored by the University student group American Movement for Israel.
At the same time, about 20 students held a candlelight vigil on the Diag to support people suffering in the Gaza Strip.
Freilich, who served as Israel’s Deputy National Security Adviser for Foreign Affairs from 2000 to 2005 and is now a senior fellow in the International Security Program at Harvard University, emphasized in his speech that lasting peace agreements are difficult to sustain because of the intricacy of Israel’s relations with other Middle Eastern nations and radical groups. He said he thinks the Palestinian leadership will have to make compromises if it wants peace and stability.
“I really think the Palestinians have to learn to take ‘yes’ for an answer and to agree to less than 100 percent,” he said. “That’s the way the world works. You don’t get 100 percent of what you want.”
Meanwhile, on the Diag, in temperatures hovering around 10 degrees, students protested Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people.
LSA sophomore Andrew Dalack, one of the vigil’s organizers, began the vigil by passing around journal entries posted on the Internet by Gaza Strip residents.
Many of the entries described the living conditions in Gaza since Israel cut off the electricity in the region last week. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered a shutdown in all exports to the Gaza Strip in an effort in an effort to deter Palestinian extremists from firing rockets into Israel.
The entries described a population on the verge of starvation, while hospitals and medical centers have been forced to shut down or scale back operations. At least 35 Palestinian civilians have been killed in violent outbreaks since the borders were closed.
Dalack said the first hand accounts gave members of the crowd a more personal notion of the situation in the Gaza Strip and reflect the tragedy of the thousands killed by Israeli forces.
“Unfortunately the media has been focusing on Palestinian aggression, not the humanitarian crisis affecting one and a half million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip – Many of which were placed in hospitals under the worst of circumstances,” he said.
Dalack said the Palestinians were victims of collective punishment and to blame the entirety of Israel would undermine the basic premise of the protest – that collective punishment is never justified.
Although Freilich didn’t directly address the current situation in Gaza, he argued that walling off Israel’s border with Gaza has quelled some of the violence.
Freilich also criticized Hamas, a militant Palestinian group that currently controls the Gaza Strip. He said that though Hamas has helped the Palestinian people in peaceful ways, the group is still focused on destroying Israel through violence.
“Hamas is not about peace, it’s not about social welfare. It’s about continuing to fight against Israel,” he said.