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Peace in their 'self-interest'

Palestinians, Israelis want it, ex-officer says

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Peace is not only possible, it's practical, a former Israeli military officer told a packed gymnasium at a rally for Israel on Sunday, where supporters waved Israeli flags and cheered speakers that included federal and provincial cabinet ministers.

"Here's what I suggest we think about in and around how to make peace happen: We have to think about what is in the mutual self-interest for Israel and the Palestinians," said Amos Guiora, a retired lieutenant-colonel in the Israeli military.

Guiora was among the Israeli officials charged with implementing the failed 1993 Oslo Accord, and he told the crowd at Winnipeg's Asper Jewish Community Campus that peace negotiations taught him not every Palestinian backs the Hamas aim to drive out the state of Israel.

"I would argue the guy who lives in Gaza, the 25-year-old guy who has no job and no future, has had enough damage to his life," Guiora said in an interview after the rally.

The Jewish Federation of Winnipeg hosted the rally in support of the people of Israel in the wake of the recent violence between Israel and Hamas in Gaza in which 169 Palestinians and six Israelis were killed.

Guiora spent 19 years serving in the military and is considered an expert in counter-terrorism.

Ordinary people on both sides of the conflict want peace to pursue trade and business, he said.

But the Hamas forces struck deeper into Israel with missiles than ever before, putting nearly 30 per cent of the Israeli population in danger before the fragile ceasefire was put into effect last week, said Guiora, who divides his time between the Middle East and the United States.

He is now a law professor at the University of Utah.

Finding a middle ground that resonates with everyone is the only solution, he said, repeating the familiar vow since the state of Israel was founded after the Second World War: "None of us are leaving. All of us are here to stay."

Earlier, the crowd greeted federal Public Safety Minister Vic Toews with cheers and applause normally reserved for rock stars.

"We will stand with Israel in times of peace and in times of war," Manitoba's senior cabinet minister told the close to 400 supporters at the rally.

Any threat to Israel is "inevitably, a threat to all democratic societies, including Canada," he said.

In an interview, Toews said the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas can hold only with the support of the Middle East's states, including Egypt.

"So far, Egypt has played a responsible part in the ceasefire. Their internal issues, I don't want to get into that," the minister said.

Egyptians took to the streets in massive protests this weekend after recently elected President Mohamed Morsi granted himself sweeping powers.

In addition to Toews, Manitoba Immigration Minister Christine Melnick pledged the province's support at the rally.

An organizer said she was surprised so many people turned out for the event.

"We put out 250 chairs and there were another 150 on the bleachers and others who were standing room only," said Shelley Faintuch, spokeswoman for the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg and the national Centre for Israeli and Jewish Affairs.


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 26, 2012 B2

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