Support Israeli-Palestinian Peace

March 2, 2002

To the editor:

Death, explosions, retaliation, revenge–the news from Israel and Palestine grows more painful and difficult to absorb each day. Like many people I want to turn away, to avoid the pain and the feelings of despair about this conflict. However, as an American, and as a Jew, I feel compelled to continue seeking out the glimmers of hope and speaking out for a just and sustainable resolution to the conflict.

I mourn all the victims–the children and the elderly, the participants and the bystanders, the Jews, Christians and Muslims, the Israelis and the Palestinians. Recognition of the humanity, and the right to dignity, of all involved must form the foundation of any lasting settlement.

The Bush administration’s hands off approach to the conflict has given Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon a green light to increase his repression and military assaults. Sharon was elected on the premise that his hard-line approach to the conflict would make Israelis more secure. Unfortunately, his tenure has been the bloodiest "non-wartime" period in Israeli history. It is time for us to recognize the absolute failure of this policy.

Sharon’s insistence on a complete halt to violence before negotiations can resume has stymied all attempts to revive discussions. As Israel’s primary military, economic and political supporter, it is time for the U.S. government to call for Israel to abandon this condition and immediately resume negotiations. Otherwise the carnage will continue to escalate, pushing peace in the region further into a future which grows increasingly dim.

The current Saudi peace proposal offers a valuable opportunity to move forward expeditiously. Like Camp David, Taba, the Mitchell Report, and many UN Resolutions, it is based on an exchange of "land for peace." The Saudi proposal has the added benefit of seeking a comprehensive resolution to the conflict by involving all the Arab nations.

Reasonable people recognize that diplomacy not military force will ultimately resolve this longstanding conflict over land. The key elements of a solution are clear:

Many people have joined Sharon in blaming the current impasse on Yasser Arafat. However, if we listen to the hundreds of Israeli reservists who are taking great personal risks by refusing to serve as occupiers of Palestinian land, we hear a different perspective. "The missions of occupation and oppression do not serve this purpose [Israel’s defense]— and we shall take no part in them." These reservists, many of whom have served for decades in the Israeli Defense Force, describe being "issued commands and directives that had nothing to do with the security of our country, and that had the sole purpose of perpetuating our control over the Palestinian people."

The least we can do to support their courageous stand is to demand that our government use its considerable influence to bring the parties back to the negotiating table and advocate for a just peace. In the process, we will be supporting the millions of Israelis and Palestinians who desperately seek a secure and dignified life for themselves and their children.

Sincerely,

Andy Mager