Former West Bank enemies find route to peace the Ulster way

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The night before Shifa Alqudsi was going to blow herself up in a bomb attack on the Israeli town of Netanya she stayed up explaining it all to her seven-year-old daughter Diana, telling her to look for a star in the sky when she wanted to speak to her.

Last week she told the story again, this time to the people she had wanted to kill, among them a soldier with a tale of how he once took part in an operation to murder Palestinians.

The encounter took place in an Irish peace centre on Donegal’s north coast. Making peace the Irish way was at the centre of a ground-breaking meeting between 15 former Palestinian militants and the same number of Israeli war veterans who had only previously met sitting under olive trees at a checkpoint on the border with the occupied West Bank.

Martin McGuinness, Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister and a former Provisional IRA commander, and Billy Hutchinson, who served a life sentence for murder and membership of the Ulster Volunteer Force, before helping to negotiate the Good Friday agreement, were on hand to offer their own experiences of negotiating an end to a conflict once thought intractable.

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