Monday night, I joined more than 500 members of our community representing more than 65 organizations and synagogues to call for real peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The Campaign for True Peace, a community-wide coalition led by the American Jewish Committee, encompasses a broad range of political perspectives. Yet, with one voice, we called for direct, face-to-face negotiations that will lead to two states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace. We reminded the world that no country yearns for peace more than Israel, and no country in recent memory has known so little of it. I’m writing to share with you the thoughts that served as the basis of my remarks:
The Unilateral Declaration at the UN is as much about rejecting peace as it is about advancing statehood.
The Palestinian leadership has rejected numerous opportunities to make peace with Israel based on the 1967 borders. In 2000, a unified Palestinian government rejected a peace deal. That could have been the right time for a Palestinian state. Now, the Palestinian leadership is divided between two governments, one of them a terrorist regime, Hamas, in Gaza. Now is not the right time for the Palestinians to create a state with the UN’s blessing.
In 2000, Israel’s neighboring countries were stable governments led by strong leaders. That could have been the right time for a Palestinian state. Now the Arab world is in turmoil. Egypt’s regime has toppled. Syria’s might too. Now is not the right time for a Palestinian state.
The Palestinians – and the Arab states – have a long history of saying ‘no,’ – not only to peace with Israel, but to recognizing its right to exist as the Jewish homeland. In 2008, Israel offered almost all of the West Bank in exchange for peace. That could have been the right time for a Palestinian state. However, the Palestinians responded with violence.
The vote at the United Nations, which could happen as early as Friday, is the next phase of Palestinian rejectionism. The UN General Assembly is considering Palestinian statehood with a government structure that gives Hamas shared power with Fatah, the ruling party in the West Bank. What would the consequences be if Hamas militants could indiscriminately launch rockets from any point in the West Bank at Israel? How many more Israeli civilians would be killed, injured or terrorized? And how much restraint is Israel expected to demonstrate with its people under constant siege by terrorists?
Israel has called for direct, face-to-face negotiations that could yield a peaceful Palestinian state. Prime Minister Netanyahu said no issues would be off the table, and that he would even travel to Ramallah to negotiate with Palestinian leaders.
Now is the time for Palestinian leadership to finally change their tune, and say “yes” to negotiations and real peace.