THE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN PEACE PROCESS

by Jared Feldman

Background:

 

Israelis and Palestinians suffer tremendously.  History has taught us that peace is possible with Israel’s Arab neighbors when, as with Egypt and Jordan, there are partners willing to reach agreements and possessing the means to implement them. We must never stop working for peace until it is realized. 

 

Israel, in accord with the Roadmap, has undertaken responsibilities with respect to settlement activity including the dismantling of unauthorized outposts.  With regard to the issue of settlements generally, we recognize that within our own community there are divergent views about current and future policies of the Israeli government toward settlements.  At the same time, we are united in the belief that the root cause of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not Israeli settlements but the continued unwillingness of the Palestinian national leadership and most Arab states to accept the state of Israel as a permanent sovereign Jewish state in the Middle East within secure borders.  The Palestinian Authority made a commitment to pursue its obligations under the road map “in order to combat chaos, violence, terrorism, and to ensure security, order and the rule of law.”  As President Bush declared in Annapolis, “a Palestinian state will not be born of terror, and terrorism is the enemy standing in the way of a state.”   President Mahmoud Abbas has expressed the Palestinian Authority’s intention to build strong institutions free of corruption that effectively address the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people, and to establish a unified and responsible security force.  For peace negotiations to have a chance for success, all parties must live up to their commitments.

 

The terrorist organization Hamas, which is now the de facto power in Gaza, continues to oppose progress toward peace.  It refuses to meet the international community’s three demands: recognize Israel’s right to exist, renounce terrorism and accept the legitimacy of previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements. Unless Hamas fundamentally transforms itself and meets these demands, it is not an acceptable partner in this process.

 

The Administration should be commended for its active diplomacy in this arena, including its leadership in convening the Annapolis conference and its recognition that direct bilateral negotiations between the two parties — free of external pressures and deadlines, and conducted in the spirit of reconciliation and compromise — is the surest path to peace; for its efforts to expand support for peace and security throughout the region; and for its steadfast commitment to Israel’s security.

 

Ongoing attacks against Israeli civilians, whether suicide bombings or the firing of missiles into Israeli communities, must not be tolerated. While peace negotiations proceed, Israel continues to have the fundamental right of self defense.

 

In fulfillment of its obligations under Phase I of the Roadmap, and to help build Israeli confidence, the Palestinian Authority should immediately end all its official media messages denying Israel’s right to exist and should instead begin preparing its people for peaceful coexistence with its neighbor Israel as the Homeland of the Jewish people.  Israel should continue making progress on implementation of its obligations under the Roadmap.  In keeping with these obligations, the government of Israel has committed that it will not allow any new settlements or land acquisitions that are not in accord with the provisions of the Roadmap.

 

The organized American Jewish community should support the Government of Israel’s insistence that the Palestinian Authority recognize Israel as a Jewish State.

 

The organized American Jewish community should affirm its support for two independent, democratic and economically viable states — the Jewish State of Israel and a State of Palestine — living side-by-side in peace and security.  We note, with sorrow, that Israel’s repeated offers to establish “two democratic states living side by side in peace and security,” have been met, time after time, by violence, incitement and terror.

 

It is crucial that the United States and the entire international community support the courageous peace efforts made by Israeli and Palestinian leaders.  Palestinians should receive closely monitored assistance in building the political, economic, and security institutions necessary to lay the foundation for statehood.  Arab states should move at an accelerated pace toward normalizing relations with Israel.

 

Active support of religious leadership can play an important role in improving the peacemaking environment. We encourage implementation of the promising commitments in the recent Communiqué of the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land.

 

The international community should continue its policy of isolating Hamas unless it fundamentally transforms itself and meets the international community’s three demands.

 

The organized American Jewish community should express its support for the Israeli Government’s efforts to achieve peace and security for the people of Israel. 

 

As the Israeli government enters negotiations on permanent status issues (including settlements, borders, Jerusalem, and refugees) to reach a comprehensive and just peace agreement with the Palestinians, the organized Jewish community should support those efforts, consistent with our longstanding tradition of supporting the efforts of Israel’s government to achieve peace and security.

 

The community relations field should:

Advocate for the aforementioned positions and messages to decision-makers and opinion-molders in the general community, to the Administration and Congress, to the international community; and,

 

Convey its own commitment to these principles to the Jewish community and to Israeli leaders. 

 

 

Dissent: The Orthodox Union does not agree with and dissents from the statement that “The organized American Jewish community should affirm its support for two independent, democratic and economically viable states – the Jewish State of Israel and a State of Palestine – living side-by-side in peace and security.” As stated in our amendment to the resolution’s text, “[w]e note, with sorrow, that Israel’s repeated offers to establish ‘two democratic states living side by side in peace and security, ‘have been met, time after time, by violence, incitement, and terror.” Hamas controls the Gaza strip and continues to wage open warfare and terrorism against Israel.  The Palestinian Authority, which controls the Palestinian areas in the West Bank, has not demonstrated sufficient capacity or willingness, as noted by the resolution, to prepare its people for recognizing Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and the homeland of the Jewish people.  If anything, such a statement appears to reward the very acts of terrorism and anti-Israel behavior that other provisions of the resolution criticize. The Orthodox Union further disagrees with and dissents from the resolution’s statement that the American Jewish community should support an Israeli government’s negotiation efforts with regard to the status of Jerusalem – should that include the Government of Israel’s possible assent to the re-division of the Holy City which the global Jewish community continues to view as the “eternal and indivisible capital of Israel and the Jewish people.”


About the Author


Jared Feldman