Monday, June 15, 2009
Honored guests, citizens of Israel.
Peace was always the desire of our people. Our prophets had a vision of peace, we greet each other with peace, our prayers end with the word peace. This evening we are in the center named for two leaders who were groundbreakers for peace -Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat - and we share their vision.
Two and a half months ago, I was sworn in at the Knesset as the Prime Minister of Israel. I promised that I would establish a unity government, and so. I believed, and still believe, that we need unity now more than ever before.
We are currently facing three tremendous challenges: The Iranian threat, the financial crisis, and the promotion of peace.
The Iranian threat still is before us in full force, as it became quite clear yesterday. The greatest danger to Israel, to the Middle East, and to all of humanity, is the encounter between extremist Islam and nuclear weapons. I discussed this with President Obama on my visit to Washington, and will be discussing it next week on my visit with European leaders. I have been working tirelessly for many years to form an international front against Iran arming itself with nuclear armaments.
With the world financial crisis, we acted immediately to bring about stability to the Israeli economy. We passed a two-year budget in the government and will pass it through the Knesset very soon.
The second challenge, rather, the third, so very important challenge, facing us today, is promoting peace. I discussed this also with President Obama. I strongly support the idea of regional peace that he is advancing. I share the President of the U.S.A's desire to bring about a new era of reconciliation in our region.
I discussed this in my meetings with President Mubarak in Egypt and with King Abdullah in Jordan to obtain the assistance of these leaders in the effort to expand the circle of peace in our region.
I appeal tonight to the leaders of the Arab countries and say: Let us meet. Let us talk about peace. Let us make peace. I am willing to meet at any time, at any place, in Damascus, in Riyadh, in Beirut, and in Jerusalem as well. (Applause)
I call upon the leaders of the Arab countries to join together with the Palestinians and with us to promote economic peace. Economic peace is not a substitute for peace, but it is a very important component in achieving it. Together we can advance projects that can overcome the problems facing our region. For example, water desalinization. And we can utilize the advantages of our region, such as maximizing the use of solar energy, or utilizing its geographical advantages to lay pipelines, pipelines to Africa and Europe.
Together we can realize the initiatives that I see in the Persian Gulf, which amaze the entire world, and also amaze me. I call upon the talented entrepreneurs of the Arab world, to come and invest here, to assist the Palestinians and us, to give the economy a jump-start. Together we can develop industrial zones, we can create thousands of jobs, and foster tourism that will draw millions, people who want to walk in the footsteps of history, in Nazareth and Bethlehem, in the heights of Jericho and on the walls of Jerusalem, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, and at the baptismal site of the Jordan. There is a huge potential for the development of tourism potential here. If you only agree to work together.
I appeal to you, our Palestinian neighbors, and to the leadership of the Palestinian Authority. Let us begin peace negotiations immediately without prior conditions. Israel is committed to international agreements, and expects all sides to fulfill their obligations.
I say to the Palestinians: We want to live with you in peace, quiet, and good neighborly relations. We want our children and your children to 'know war no more.'
We do not want parents and wives, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, to know the sorrow of bereavement. We want our children to dream of a better future for humankind. We want us and our neighbors to devote our efforts to 'plowshares and pruning hooks' and not to ?swords and spears?? I know the terror of war, I participated in battles, I lost good friends who fell [in battle], I lost a brother. I saw the pain of bereaved families from up close ? very many times. I do not want war. No one in Israel wants war. (Applause)
Let us join hands and work together in peace, together with our neighbors. There is no limit to the flourishing growth that we can achieve for both peoples - in the economy, in agriculture, in commerce, tourism, education - but, above all, in the ability to give our younger generation hope to live in a place that?s good to live in, a life of creative work, a peaceful life with much of interest, with opportunity and hope.
Friends, with the advantages of peace so clear, so obvious, we must ask ourselves why is peace still so far from us, even though our hands are extended for peace? Why has the conflict going on for over 60 years? To bring an end to it, there must be a sincere, genuine answer to the question: what is the root of the conflict? In his speech at the Zionist Congress in Basel, in speaking of his grand vision of a Jewish homeland for the Jewish People, Theodor Herzl, the visionary of the State of Israel, said: This is so big, we must talk about it only in the simplest words possible.
I now am asking that when we speak of the huge challenge of peace, we must use the simplest words possible, using person to person terms. Even with our eyes on the horizon, we must have our feet on the ground, firmly rooted in truth. The simple truth is that the root of the conflict has been ? and remains - the refusal to recognize the right of the Jewish People to its own state in its historical homeland.
In 1947 when the United Nations proposed the Partition Plan for a Jewish state and an Arab state, the entire Arab world rejected the proposal, while the Jewish community accepted it with great rejoicing and dancing. The Arabs refused any Jewish state whatsoever, with any borders whatsoever.
Whoever thinks that the continued hostility to Israel is a result of our forces in Judea, Samaria and Gaza is confusing cause and effect. The attacks on us began in the 1920s, became an overall attack in 1948 when the state was declared, continued in the 1950s with the fedaayyin attacks, and reached their climax in 1967 on the eve of the Six-Day War, with the attempt to strangle Israel. All this happened nearly 50 years before a single Israeli soldier went into Judea and Samaria.
To our joy, Egypt and Jordan left this circle of hostility. They signed peace agreements with us which ended their hostility to Israel. It brought about peace.
To our deep regret, this is not happening with the Palestinians. The closer we get to a peace agreement with them, the more they are distancing themselves from peace. They raise new demands. They are not showing us that they want to end the conflict.
A great many people are telling us that withdrawal is the key to peace with the Palestinians. But the fact is that all our withdrawals were met by huge waves of suicide bombers.
We tried withdrawal by agreement, withdrawal without an agreement, we tried partial withdrawal and full withdrawal. In 2000, and once again last year, the government of Israel, based on good will, tried a nearly complete withdrawal, in exchange for the end of the conflict, and were twice refused.
We withdrew from the Gaza Strip to the last centimeter, we uprooted dozens of settlements and turned thousands of Israelis out of their homes. In exchange, what we received were missiles raining down on our cities, our towns and our children. The argument that withdrawal would bring peace closer did not stand up to the test of reality.
With Hamas in the south and Hezbollah in the north, they keep on saying that they want to 'liberate' Ashkelon in the south and Haifa and Tiberias.
Even the moderates among the Palestinians are not ready to say the most simplest things: The State of Israel is the national homeland of the Jewish People and will remain so. (Applause)
Friends, in order to achieve peace, we need courage and integrity on the part of the leaders of both sides. I am speaking today with courage and honesty. We need courage and sincerity not only on the Israeli side: we need the Palestinian leadership to rise and say, simply "We have had enough of this conflict. We recognize the right of the Jewish People to a state its own in this Land. We will live side by side in true peace." I am looking forward to this moment.
We want them to say the simplest things, to our people and to their people. This will then open the door to solving other problems, no matter how difficult. The fundamental condition for ending the conflict is the public, binding and sincere Palestinian recognition of Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish People. (Applause)
For this to have practical meaning, we need a clear agreement to solve the Palestinian refugee problem outside of the borders of the State of Israel. For it is clear to all that the demand to settle the Palestinian refugees inside of Israel, contradicts the continued existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish People. We must solve the problem of the Arab refugees. And I believe that it is possible to solve it. Because we have proven that we ourselves solved a similar problem. Tiny Israel took in the hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees from Arab countries who were uprooted from their homes.
Therefore, justice and logic dictates that the problem of the Palestinian refugees must be solved outside the borders of the State of Israel. There is broad national agreement on this. (Applause)
I believe that with good will and international investment of we can solve this humanitarian problem once and for all.
Friends, up to now, I have been talking about the need for the Palestinians to ecognize our rights. Now I will talk about the need for us to recognize their rights.
The connection of the Jewish People to the Land has been in existence for more than 3,500 years. Judea and Samaria, the places where our forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob walked, our forefathers David, Solomon, Isaiah and Jeremiah ? this is not a foreign land, this is the Land of our Forefathers. (Applause)
The right of the Jewish People to a state in the Land of Israel does not arise from the series of disasters that befell the Jewish People over 2,000 years -- persecutions, expulsions, pogroms, blood libels, murders, which reached its climax in the Holocaust, an unprecedented tragedy in the history of nations. There are those who say that without the Holocaust the State would not have been established, but I say that if the State of Israel had been established in time, the Holocaust would not have taken place. (Applause) The tragedies that arose from the Jewish People?s helplessness show very sharply that we need a protective state.
The right to establish our sovereign state here, in the Land of Israel, arises from one simple fact: Eretz Israel is the birthplace of the Jewish People. (Applause)
As the first PM David Ben Gurion in the declaration of the State, the State of Israel was established here in Eretz Israel, where the People of Israel created the Book of Books, and gave it to the world.
But, friends, we must state the whole truth here. The truth is that in the area of our homeland, in the heart of our Jewish Homeland, now lives a large population of Palestinians. We do not want to rule over them. We do not want to run their lives. We do not want to force our flag and our culture on them. In my vision of peace, there are two free peoples living side by side in this small land, with good neighborly relations and mutual respect, each with its flag, anthem and government, with neither one threatening its neighbor?s security and existence.
These two facts ? our link to the Land of Israel, and the Palestinian population who live here, have created deep disagreements within Israeli society. But the truth is that we have much more unity than disagreement.
I came here tonight to talk about the agreement and security that are broad consensus within Israeli society. This is what guides our policy. This policy must take into account the international situation. We have to recognize international agreements but also principles important to the State of Israel. I spoke tonight about the first principle - recognition. Palestinians must truly recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people. The second principle is demilitarization. Any area in Palestinian hands has to be demilitarization, with solid security measures. Without this condition, there is a real fear that there will be an armed Palestinian state which will become a terrorist base against Israel, as happened in Gaza. We do not want missiles on Petah Tikva, or Grads on the Ben-Gurion international airport. We want peace. (Applause)
And, to ensure peace we don?t want them to bring in missiles or rockets or have an army, or control of airspace, or make treaties with countries like Iran, or Hizbullah. There is broad agreement on this in Israel. We cannot be expected to agree to a Palestinian state without ensuring that it is demilitarized. This is crucial to the existence of Israel ? we must provide for our security needs.
This is why we are now asking our friends in the international community, headed by the USA, for what is necessary for our security, that in any peace agreement, the Palestinian area must be demilitarized. No army, no control of air space. Real effective measures to prevent arms coming in, not what?s going on now in Gaza. The Palestinians cannot make military treaties.
Without this, sooner or later, we will have another Hamastan. We can?t agree to this. Israel must govern its own fate and security. I told President Obama in Washington, if we get a guarantee of demilitarization, and if the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state, we are ready to agree to a real peace agreement, a demilitarized Palestinian state side by side with the Jewish state. (Applause)
Whenever we discuss a permanent arrangement, Israel needs defensible borders with Jerusalem remaining the united capital of Israel. (Applause)
The territorial issues will be discussed in a permanent agreement. Till then we have no intention to build new settlements or set aside land for new settlements. But there is a need to have people live normal lives and let mothers and fathers raise their children like everyone in the world. The settlers are not enemies of peace. They are our brothers and sisters. (Applause)
Friends, unity among us is, to my view, vital, and unity will help with reconciliation with our neighbors. Reconciliation must begin now. A strong Palestinian government will strengthen peace. If they truly want peace, and educate their children for peace and stop incitement, we for our part will make every effort, allow them freedom of movement and accessibility, making their lives easier and this will help bring peace.
But above all, they must decide: the Palestinians must decide between path of peace and path of Hamas. They must overcome Hamas. Israel will not sit down at conference table with terrorist who seek to destroy it. (Applause)
Hamas are not willing to even let the Red Cross visit our abducted soldier Gilad Shalit who has been in captivity three years, cut off from his family and his country. We want to bring him back whole and well.
With help of the international community, there is no reason why we can?t have peace. With help of USA, we can do we can do the unbelievable. In 61 years, with constant threats to our existence we have achieved so much. Our microchips power the worlds computers unbelievable, we have found cures for incurable diseases. Israeli drip irrigation waters barren lands throughout the world. Israeli researchers are making worldwide breakthroughs. If our neighbors only work for peace, we can achieve peace. (Applause)
I call upon Arab leaders and Palestinian leaders: Let?s go in the path of Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat, Yitzhak Rabin and King Hussein. Let?s go in the path of Prophet Isaiah, who spoke thousands of years ago, they shall beat their swords into plowshares and know war no more.
Let us know war no more. Let us know peace
Thursday, June 04, 2009
Let’s remember that Israel is the only country that gave land to the Palestinians for their autonomous rule. Jordan and Egypt did not do so during the 19 years that they controlled the West Bank and Gaza, but Israel did so by withdrawing from Gaza four years ago. The Palestinian response was not peaceful coexistence, but missiles and terror.
Settlements are not the problem here. Israel has destroyed settlements and displaced its citizens from their homes in Gaza. But the Palestinians didn’t build peaceful towns in the settlements; they used them as missile launching pads.
The world needs to avoid distractions, like settlements and border details, and focus on Arab willingness to live in peace. Peace means no missiles, no terror, no kidnappings.
Until the Arabs are willing to accept peace, Israeli overtures will go the same way as the Gaza withdrawal.
Bruce Dov Krulwich
Beit Shemesh, Israel, June 3, 2009
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Learning nothing from history
Leave aside for the moment the malice towards Israel that is involved, the attitude of the Obama administration towards the Middle East is well-nigh incomprehensible in its suicidal stupidity. It is trying to make Israel play the role of Czechoslovakia in 1938, when Britain under Neville Chamberlain told it that if it didn’t submit to the Nazis it would stand alone – with the result that the following year, Hitler invaded Poland. Determined to prove that history repeats itself the second time as tragedy, America is trying to force Israel to destroy its security by accepting the creation of a terrorist Iranistan on its doorstep, under the threat that otherwise the US will not help protect its security by defanging Iran (and how, precisely would it do that?). But in doing so, the Obama administration is jeopardising the security of America itself and the free world, not to mention the Arab states which have good reason to fear Iranian regional hegemony. This paper by Efraim Inbar spells out the multiple idiocies of an administration that believes that making nice with genocidal fanatics will turn them into apostles of peaceful co-existence :
Recently, we also learned that the White House is trying to make kosher the transfer of funds to a Palestinian government that includes the radical Islamist Hamas. This is another sign of strategic folly. Hamas, a recognized terrorist organization, is an Iranian proxy, with a clear Jihadist agenda. Hamas has strong ties to the Islamic opposition in Egypt that wants to replace the pro-Western Mubarak regime. Arab moderate states are alarmed by the resilience of Hamas' rule in Gaza and the last thing they want is to aid this radical organization. The struggle against Hamas, just as the quest to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power, serves American interests and those of its allies in the Middle East. It is only marginally related to Israel. Unfortunately, Obama’s Washington does not get it yet.
... In the Middle East, misguided American policies, particularly regarding Iran, may have disastrous consequences such as the fall of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey into Islamist hands. Under such a scenario, Israel would remain the only country where an American airplane could land safely in the Middle East; this is not a thought that Jerusalem relishes.
Nor, obviously, should any of us. The question ever more insistently poses itself, not just about the political neophyte Obama but all those hatchet-faced apparatchiks in senior foreign policy, defence and security posts within his administration: how can so many people in such a position be so staggeringly stupid?
Sunday, May 10, 2009
By CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER
May 9, 2009, 5:06PM
Apart from the time restriction (a truce that lapses after 10 years) and the refusal to accept Israel’s existence, Mr. Meshal’s terms approximate the Arab League peace plan …
— Hamas peace plan, as explained by The New York Times
Apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?
— Tom Lehrer, satirist
The Times conducted a five-hour interview with Hamas leader Khaled Meshal at his Damascus headquarters. Mirabile dictu, they’re offering a peace plan with a two-state solution. Except. The offer is not a peace but a truce that expires after 10 years. Meaning that after Israel has fatally weakened itself by settling millions of hostile Arab refugees in its midst, and after a decade of Hamas arming itself within a Palestinian state that narrows Israel to eight miles wide — Hamas restarts the war against a country it remains pledged to eradicate.
There is a phrase for such a peace: the peace of the grave.
Westerners may be stupid, but Hamas is not. It sees the new American administration making overtures to Iran and Syria. It sees Europe, led by Britain, beginning to accept Hezbollah. It sees itself as next in line. And it knows what to do. Yasser Arafat wrote the playbook.
With the 1993 Oslo accords, he showed what can be achieved with a fake peace treaty with Israel — universal diplomatic recognition, billions of dollars of aid, and control of Gaza and the West Bank, which Arafat turned into an armed camp.
Meshal sees the opportunity. Not only is the Obama administration reaching out to its erstwhile enemies in the region, but it begins its term by wagging an angry finger at Israel over the Netanyahu government’s ostensible refusal to accept a two-state solution.
Of all the phony fights to pick with Israel. No Israeli government would turn down a two-state solution in which the Palestinians accepted territorial compromise and genuine peace with a Jewish state. (And any government that did would be voted out in a day.) Netanyahu’s own defense minister, Ehud Barak, offered precisely such a deal in 2000. He even offered to divide Jerusalem and expel every Jew from every settlement remaining in the new Palestine.
The Palestinian response (for those who have forgotten) was: No. And no counteroffer. Instead, nine weeks later, Arafat unleashed a savage terror war that killed 1,000 Israelis.
Netanyahu is reluctant to agree to a Palestinian state before he knows what kind of state it will be. That elementary prudence should be shared by anyone who’s been sentient the last three years. The Palestinians already have a state, an independent territory with not an Israeli settler or soldier living on it. It’s called Gaza. And what is it? A terror base, Islamist in nature, Iranian-allied, militant and aggressive, that has fired more than 10,000 rockets and mortars at Israeli civilians.
If this is what a West Bank state is going to be, it would be madness for Israel or America or Jordan or Egypt or any other moderate Arab country to accept such a two-state solution. Which is why Netanyahu insists that the Palestinian Authority first build institutions — social, economic and military — to anchor a state that could actually carry out its responsibilities to keep the peace.
Apart from being reasonable, Netanyahu’s two-state skepticism is beside the point. His predecessor, Ehud Olmert, worshiped at the shrine of a two-state solution. He made endless offers of a two-state peace to the Palestinian Authority — and got nowhere.
Why? Because the Palestinians — going back to the U.N. partition resolution of 1947 — have never accepted the idea of living side by side with a Jewish state. Those like Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who might want to entertain such a solution, have no authority to do it. And those like Hamas’ Meshal, who have authority, have no intention of ever doing it.
Meshal’s gambit to dress up perpetual war as a two-state peace is yet another iteration of the Palestinian rejectionist tragedy. In its previous incarnation, Arafat lulled Israel and the Clinton administration with talk of peace while he methodically prepared his people for war.
Arafat waited seven years to tear up his phony peace. Meshal’s innovation? Ten — then blood.
Krauthammer is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist based in Washington, D.C.
Wednesday, May 06, 2009
Monday, March 09, 2009
MARCH 9, 2009
Islam Should Prove It's a Religion of Peace
Muslims can start with better Quranic scholarship.
By TAWFIK HAMID
The film "Fitna" by Dutch parliament member Geert Wilders has created an uproar around the world because it links violence committed by Islamists to Islam.
Many commentators and politicians -- including the British government, which denied him entry to the country last month -- reflexively accused Mr. Wilders of inciting hatred. The question, however, is whether the blame is with Mr. Wilders, who simply exposed Islamic radicalism, or with those who promote and engage in this religious extremism. In other words, shall we fault Mr. Wilders for raising issues like the stoning of women, or shall we fault those who actually promote and practice this crime?
Many Muslims seem to believe that it is acceptable to teach hatred and violence in the name of their religion -- while at the same time expecting the world to respect Islam as a religion of peace, love and harmony.
Scholars in the most prestigious Islamic institutes and universities continue to teach things like Jews are "pigs and monkeys," that women and men must be stoned to death for adultery, or that Muslims must fight the world to spread their religion. Isn't, then, Mr. Wilders's criticism appropriate? Instead of blaming him, we must blame the leading Islamic scholars for having failed to produce an authoritative book on Islamic jurisprudence that is accepted in the Islamic world and unambiguously rejects these violent teachings.
While many religious texts preach violence, the interpretation, modern usage and implementation of these teachings make all the difference. For example, the stoning of women exists in both the Old Testament and in the Islamic tradition, or "Sunna" -- the recorded deeds and manners of the prophet Muhammad. The difference, though, is that leading Jewish scholars agreed to discontinue these practices centuries ago, while Muslim scholars have yet to do so. Hence we do not see the stoning of women practiced or promoted in Israel, the "Jewish" state, but we see it practiced and promoted in Iran and Saudi Arabia, the "Islamic" states.
When the British government banned Geert Wilders from entering the country to present his film in the House of Lords, it made two egregious errors. The first was to suppress free speech, a canon of the civilized Western world. The second mistake was to blame the messenger -- punishing, so to speak, the witness who exposed the crime instead of punishing the criminal. Mr. Wilders did not produce the content of the violent Islamic message he showed in his film -- the Islamic world did that. Until the Islamic clerical establishment takes concrete steps to reject violence in the name of their religion, Mr. Wilders's criticism is not only permissible as "controversial" free speech but justified.
So, Islamic scholars and clerics, it is up to you to produce a Shariah book that will be accepted in the Islamic world and that teaches that Jews are not pigs and monkeys, that declaring war to spread Islam is unacceptable, and that killing apostates is a crime. Such a book would prove that Islam is a religion of peace.
Mr. Hamid, a former member of an Egyptian Islamist terrorist group, is an Islamic reformer and senior fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies.
Thursday, January 08, 2009
A Conflict Hamas Caused
By Richard CohenTuesday, January 6, 2009; A13
Nearly a year ago, I was in the southern Israeli city of Sderot, where, on almost any day, you could see the current war coming. "The next Middle East war may start over Sderot," I wrote back then. I came by my prescience the hard way -- in a bomb shelter. That day, three Qassam rockets had hit the city. It took no genius to see the imminence of war. It takes real stupidity to blame it on Israel.
On some days, dozens of rockets fell on Sderot. A blimp hovered over the town, and when it electronically spied an incoming rocket, the sirens went off. In Sderot, the sirens were virtually a single, long wail on some days. Everyone took shelter because shelters are everywhere -- a constant reminder of the nearness of death or, at the very least, destruction. Even a dud can bust through the roof of a house.
I get the impression that Israel is expected to put up with this. The implied message from demonstrators and some opinion columnists is that this is the price Israel is supposed to pay for being, I suppose, Israel. I am informed by a Palestinian journalist in a Post op-ed that Israel is trying to stop "amateur rockets from nagging the residents of some of its southern cities." In Sderot, I saw homes nagged to smithereens.
While I was reading the online version of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz for all the latest news about the war, a pop-up ad announced itself: "Camp Kimama, Israel, 2009 -- What childhood memories should be made of." The picture shows kids frolicking in the water. Placed next to stories about battle, it was a jarring -- but vivid -- statement of war aims: the expectation of normal life.
The CIA's World Factbook says that Israel has a population of 7,112,359. Of these, about 5,434,000 are Jews. That includes 187,000 settlers in the West Bank, about 20,000 in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights bordering Syria, and about 175,000 in East Jerusalem. It does not include, however, the approximately 750,000 Israelis living in the United States -- some for a brief amount of time, some for an extended period, some permanently. For a variety of reasons -- and often with considerable pain -- they have given up on the country of their birth.
As the leaders of Hamas understand, the war in Gaza is about Israel's incessant fight to be a normal country. Maybe that's impossible. The war between Arab and Jew predates the founding of Israel in 1948. For the Palestinians, it is a fierce fight for Arab justice, for Arab pride, for Arab myth -- for ancestral houses and orange groves that few living have ever seen. For Israel, it is so kids can swim in a lake.
Three years ago, Israel pulled out of the Gaza Strip. Good, the world said. Next, pull out of the West Bank, the world said. But then Hamas, which has vowed to destroy Israel, won the election in Gaza. Sderot soon became hell. The West Bank is controlled by Fatah, the moderate Palestinian organization, which once had control of Gaza, too. If Israel withdraws from the West Bank, will rockets come from there? If you lived in Tel Aviv, a spit from the West Bank, would you take the chance?
Anyone could have seen this war coming. The diplomats and demonstrators who are now so engaged in the problem and the process were nowhere to be found when rockets began raining down on southern Israel. The border between Gaza and Egypt is riddled with tunnels -- some for food, some for weapons. The international monitors that are so evidently needed now were just as evidently needed then.
Conventional wisdom says that when Israel went into Lebanon in 2006, it lost that war. Hezbollah stood up to the mighty Israeli army; Israel could not muzzle Hezbollah's rockets. That may not be the way Hezbollah sees things, however. After the war, its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, said he had miscalculated. He was not prepared for the fury of the Israeli attack. He apologized. Now, Hezbollah takes no role in the current war. It will be back, but it still has wounds to lick.
The horrors of war are not to be dismissed or demeaned. In 2006, Israel accidentally killed 28 civilians in the Lebanese village of Qana when it attempted to take out a nearby rocket site. In Gaza, innocent Palestinians are being killed. The suffering is great and cannot be ignored. But what has been ignored is the series of events that led to this war. Anyone could see how it was going to start. As always, though, it's a lot harder to see how it ends.
Tuesday, January 06, 2009
Many years ago Golda Meir made the now-famous statement that peace would come to the Middle East when the Arabs love their children more than they hate Israel. Recent years have led me to rephrase this as follows: True peace will come to the Middle East when the Arabs can gain more from a negotiated peace than they can through terror.
Like many Israeli citizens, I have been truly concerned over the past few years that peace would never come to the region. In the past few days, however, I have come to believe that we are finally on a path that can lead to true peace.
To understand what I mean, and to truly understand the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, we need to look at two recent events that changed the entire landscape of the conflict: The negotiations between Prime Minister Barak and Yaser Arafat ten years ago and the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza three years ago.
Prime Minister Barak changed the entire dialog in Israel from the question of whether to give the Palestinians land for peace to the question of how much land to give and under what conditions. His famous offer of 98% of the West Bank and Gaza to create a Palestinian state made clear Israel's willingness to offer land for peace. Similarly, the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza changed the dialog in Israel from whether to withdraw from Israeli settlement towns to when and how to do so. It demonstrated without question that Israel was willing to do so and in fact has now done so.
At the same time, however, Prime Minister Barak's negotiations with Yasser Arafat showed the futility in negotiations in which the Palestinians believe that they can get more through terror. With an offer on the table of 98% of the West Bank and Gaza, including all areas primarily occupied by Palestinian villages, the Palestinians chose a second intifada over accepting the offer. Even more so, when the Palestinains were given full control of the Gaza strip three years ago, with promises to withdraw subsequently from the West Bank, they chose not to build a functioning and peaceful society, but rather to fire thousands of rockets at Israeli towns.
These events bring me to the simple conclusion that the Palestinians believe that terror can bring them more than negotiation. The only way to stop this impasse is for Palestinian terror to have such a high price tag that they will choose peace through negotiation.
For three years the Palestinians have been shooting rockets at Israeli towns such as Sderot. Israel has never responded, hoping against hope that world opinion would influence the Palestinians abandon terror and choose peace. But this has not happened, because there was no price tag associated with terror. Why compromise when terror might bring more, with no cost?
Now, however, Israel has attached a price tag to terror. If the Palestinians choose terror, they will pay the price instead of Israeli towns paying the price. This price tag, and only this price tag, brings the hope of a situation in which the Palestinians will choose negotiation over terror.
My hope is that when a cease fire is reached, Israel will make clear that any rockets fired at Israeli towns will bring a continuation of this response. There must be no options other than peace negotiation. Another hope is that the result will be a true two-sided compromise, not a negotiation under which Israel is presumed to give whatever the Palestinians want.
Israel has demonstrated its willingness to compromise and offer land for peace, and to withdraw from land and give it to the Palestinians. Israelis dream of a day that the Palestinians will respond by building a peaceful and productive country of their own. To realize this, terror must be given a high enough price so as not to be an option.