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Medisina at Politika by Dr. Rey Pagtakhan  

Israeli-Palestinian hope for peace

by Dr. Rey D. Pagtakhan

In this troubled world, in these troubled times, each of us shall re-affirm our faith in peace and humanity. On February 14, the governments of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand – through their respective elected leaders – issued a joint statement that reflects the collective voice of their citizens on the world’s most urgent peace and humanitarian issue. This columnist has re-printed below the full Joint Statement as released in Ottawa on February 14th:

“The Prime Ministers of Australia, Canada and New Zealand today issued the following statement on reports of Israel’s planned military operation in Rafah.

We are gravely concerned by indications that Israel is planning a ground offensive into Rafah. A military operation into Rafah would be catastrophic. About 1.5 million Palestinians are taking refuge in the area, including many of our citizens and their families. With the humanitarian situation in Gaza already dire, the impacts on Palestinian civilians from an expanded military operation would be devastating. We urge the Israeli government not to go down this path. There is simply nowhere else for civilians to go.

There is growing international consensus. Israel must listen to its friends, and it must listen to the international community. The protection of civilians is paramount and a requirement under international humanitarian law. Palestinian civilians cannot be made to pay the price of defeating Hamas.

An immediate humanitarian ceasefire is urgently needed. Hostages must be released. The need for humanitarian assistance in Gaza has never been greater. Rapid, safe, and unimpeded humanitarian relief must be provided to civilians. The International Court of Justice has been clear: Israel must ensure the delivery of basic services and essential humanitarian assistance and must protect civilians. The Court’s decisions on provisional measures are binding.

We are clear that a sustainable ceasefire is necessary to finding a path towards securing lasting peace for Israelis and Palestinians. Any ceasefire cannot be one sided. Hamas must lay down its arms and release all hostages immediately. We again unequivocally condemn Hamas for its terror attacks on Israel on October 7.

Ultimately, a negotiated political solution is needed to achieve lasting peace and security. Australia, Canada, and New Zealand remain steadfast in their commitment to a two-state solution, including the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, where Palestinians and Israelis live side by side in peace, security, and dignity.”

Indeed, may peace and humanity return to the region. It is our fervent hope.

Dr. Rey Pagtakhan is a retired Canadian Filipino physician, professor, and parliamentarian.