The city of Juba was joyous yesterday. Thousands of inhabitants of the world's 193rd country, the Republic of South Sudan, celebrated its independence in the presence of the United Nations secretary general and numerous other leaders - including its former enemy, the president of North Sudan, Omar al-Bashir. They cheered at the sound of the newest national anthem on Earth and the unfurling of the flag of the world's youngest nation.
South Sudan's independence was bought by great bloodshed. After 50 years of civil wars, which cost the lives of some two million Sudanese, the time came to partition the north and the south. Yesterday's celebrations could not hide the serious problems of the new country: One out of seven babies will not reach its fifth birthday, and between one and four million South Sudanese might be deported from the north. How will oil profits be divided between the north and the south? What will South Sudan, one of the poorest and most corrupt regions in the world, do with the money - will it continue to spend it on its army or devote it to solving its social problems? How will the debts of the two countries - a total of $38 billion - be divided? And how will the south find an outlet to the sea?
But yesterday was a time for worldwide celebration: The United Nations proved its ability, in a rare instance, to resolve bloody conflicts. Sudan's partition plan, which was passed by a democratic referendum and supported by the international community, proved that a peaceful solution can be found, even for the most bitter conflicts. The involvement of the United Nations was the critical factor in resolving the conflict.
Israel should learn the lessons of Sudan. Not only should it join the expected general recognition of the new country; it should realize that the division into two countries backed by the international community is the only way to solve a bloody conflict like the one between the Israelis and the Palestinians. While Israel is fighting a harsh and needless battle against UN recognition of a Palestinian state, it should look to Sudan and draw the conclusion that a diplomatic plan that wins the support of the United Nations and most of the world, could be the best plan for Israel, too. After South Sudan became the 193rd country, it may be hoped that if Palestine becomes the 194th, it will be with the support of its neighbor, Israel.
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