WE COVER ISRAEL/PALESTINE
Your coverage in several recent articles, columns and book reviews concerning the state of Israeli-Palestinian relations evokes my gratitude and admiration. It shows probing journalism and moral courage at a time when the AIPAC lobby and its passive supporters in the Jewish-American community continue to treat the Israeli government’s policies as a sacred cow and the Palestinian people as subhuman. Despite the inevitable barrage of poison-pen letters you undoubtedly receive, count me as one proud and satisfied “customer” (subscriber).
New York City
Misleading statements fill your June 18 editorial “Endless Occupation.” Contrary to the assertion that Israel’s commitment to a two-state solution is in question, the last three Israeli prime ministers have supported the creation of a Palestinian state. In 2000 it was PA leader Yasir Arafat who twice rejected offers of a state with a capital in East Jerusalem.
Contrary to the assertion that the United States abdicated its role in Israeli-Arab peacemaking, in 2002 George W. Bush became the first US President to call for a Palestinian state and to issue a plan, the Road Map, for arriving there. And contrary to the assertion that Hamas supports a two-state solution, the terrorist group’s charter refuses to recognize Israel, obviating the possibility of partition. Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh has repeatedly stated that he will never recognize Israel.
While the Arab League’s current proposal contains positive elements, you neglect to mention that it also demands a “right of return” for Palestinian refugees that has no basis in international law and would overwhelm Israel’s Jewish majority. Still, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has expressed willingness to discuss the larger proposal with Arab interlocutors.
You raise the notion of a binational state but omit the fact that Israel, as it was intended by its founders and backed by the international community, would cease to exist. Demography would erase its raison d’être: the one and only Jewish State in the world. Why should Israel be subject to dismantlement against its will? Would other nation-states accept such a fate of national suicide? What would be the likely prospect of Jewish survival in such a setting, given the history of the region?
The path to a two-state solution, of creating a Palestinian state alongside Israel, with both living in peace and security, is clear. So, too, is the main obstacle: the steadfast refusal of the Palestinian leadership to grasp Israel’s outstretched hand for peace.
RICHARD SIDEMAN, president
American Jewish Committee
THE EDITORS REPLY
Recent Israeli prime ministers have paid lip service to the idea of a Palestinian state, as Bush did in his June 2002 speech. But both the Israeli government and the Bush Administration have consistently impeded progress toward a two-state solution, the former through rapid construction of the separation wall and expansion of settlements on Palestinian land, and the latter by publicly announcing US acceptance of Israeli annexation of huge West Bank settlement blocs, which would make a Palestinian state impossible. Arafat rejected the 2000 Camp David proposals for similar reasons: The Israelis insisted on annexing those settlement blocs, as well as retaining long-term control over the Jordan Valley and sovereignty over much of East Jerusalem–conditions that would have made an independent Palestinian state unviable.