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Israel-Palestine peace process 'kidnapped by religious zealots'

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas must each separate himself from the religious parties near him, or else the conflict will escalate into unprecedented levels.
The Dome of the Rock (L) located on the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount in Jerusalemís Old City is seen during sunset May 29, 2015. Picture taken May 29, 2015. REUTERS/Ammar Awad   - RTX1F3SU

The current violent conflict between Palestinians and Israelis makes one reminisce about better days — when Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and PLO leader Yasser Arafat were working together for a peaceful solution.

A senior PLO official, who was one of a very small number of Palestinians who negotiated directly with Rabin and Peres, told Al-Monitor, on condition of anonymity, that he remembers well his attendance at Rabin's funeral on Nov. 6, 1995: "We felt a common sadness, we knew that this was more than a personal tragedy, it was a loss for peace." He added with great concern, "We hardly agreed with Rabin on any issue. His concept of security infringed on our right to freedom. Yet we respected him and his strategic intention to achieve a peaceful two-state solution. At this time, no matter what the differences in view between him and Yasser Arafat were, the conflict was of national nature — two national movements struggling over self-determination on the same land — and so was the potential solution, which aimed at sharing the land between two states. Since then, we had to deal with five Israeli prime ministers and 10 years of a Netanyahu government. The process has been kidnapped by religious zealots, mainly Israeli settlers, who are playing into the hands of fundamentalist Hamas; thus, we must face a conflict that is turning religious and is leading to major violence."

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