uploaded : Monday 17th Dec 2001 at 17:29
by : Americans for Peace Now
Americans for Peace Now
1815 H St., NW. Ste. 920
Washington, D.C. 20006
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Lewis Roth
December 14, 2001 (202) 728-1893
THE FUTURE OF APN’S ZIONIST VISION OF ISRAEL
Americans for Peace Now (APN) shares the vision of the majority of Israelis and Jews that Israel should be a Jewish, democratic state living in peace and security with its neighbors. For more than 20 years Israel’s Peace Now has been working towards achieving this goal.
Among both Israelis and Palestinians there are people who vehemently oppose the prospect of two states for two peoples, and who will use any means necessary to ensure that it is never realized. There are people on both sides who see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as an existential battle for all the land between the river and the sea. For the sake of securing our goal of a Jewish, democratic state of Israel living in peace and security, these people cannot be permitted to win.
Our objective cannot be achieved solely by military means. Rather, it requires that military strength be matched by political vision and will that offer a path out of the cycle of attacks and reprisals, and lead to negotiations that will eventually produce an agreement enabling Israelis and Palestinians to live side-by-side, each in their own state. Failure to conceive and implement such a vision will mean continued insecurity for Israel’s citizens. Moreover, continued Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip will, within one generation, mean the end to Israel as a democratic state with a Jewish majority. Instead, our Jewish state will become home to two peoples locked in perpetual conflict, with Israel forced to decide whether to grant full citizenship rights to a people that do not support a Zionist state and outnumber those who do, or create a two-tier, undemocratic system of governance, in which a Jewish minority dominates a restive non-Jewish Palestinian majority.
This scenario would be a nightmare for Israel and all of us who support the Jewish state. It is not the Zionist vision for Israel’s future for which APN, or the majority of Jews and Israelis, have fought for generations.
WHAT ARAFAT MUST DO
Palestinian Authority (PA) leader Yasser Arafat must make a decision whether he will join the world in fighting terror or whether he will relegate future generations of Palestinians to misery and strife. Regardless of what the government of Israel declares, only Arafat can determine, by his own actions, whether he is relevant or irrelevant to the outcome of this conflict and the future of the Palestinian people. Similarly, by his actions, Arafat can determine whether the Palestinians will take advantage of the precious window of opportunity created by the latest U.S. political initiative or will squander it.
To be relevant to the outcome of this conflict and the future of the Palestinian people, Arafat must act swiftly and decisively, in a full-faith effort against violence and terror. As called for by Israel, the U.S., and the EU, Arafat must arrest known terrorists leaders, hold them in detention, try them, and punish them for crimes of which they are found guilty. He must root out terrorist cells, seize weapons, and shut down factories producing bombs and mortars. He and others in the PA must speak out decisively against violence, so that the Palestinian people understand that this policy will be seriously enforced. Arafat must make it clear to Israel, the U.S., and the international community that he is making the genuine 100% effort, with verifiable results, that is required in order to restore Israel and the Palestinians to the path that leads to negotiations.
Failure by Arafat to meaningfully assert his authority over the past 14 months has bolstered the strength and prestige of groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The challenge he faces today is largely of his own making – his credibility will depend on his willingness and ability to meet this challenge.
WHAT SHARON MUST DO
Military might alone will never bring about security for Israel’s citizens. Rather, Israel’s military strength must be coupled with a political vision that provides both sides a credible path to the achievement of their fundamental national goals: security and stability for the Jewish state, and a territorially contiguous and economically viable state for the Palestinians. The Sharon government has yet to provide a credible vision or political initiative that would hold any such prospect of a secure two-state solution, regardless of Palestinian performance in combating terror.
Israel has the right to defend itself and its citizens. However, Israel needs to weigh the immediate military and psychological benefits of actions that seek to cripple terrorist organizations, against the effect these same actions have of sowing fear, insecurity, and hatred among the Palestinian public, turning the terrorists into martyrs and rallying symbols, and making likely some form of violent retaliation.
Furthermore, even stronger military actions are not likely to make Israelis more secure – rather, they risk sparking an escalation of violence that may impact the stability of Jordan and Egypt, leading to a potential regional conflagration.
In the quest for Israeli security, it is a mistake to declare Arafat “irrelevant” and to launch an offensive at the very moment when the international community is finally putting serious and concerted pressure on Arafat to rein in violence and terror – pressure that appears to have resulted in successful new PA initiatives against terrorists. To do so is to squander the opportunity provided by this international consensus, moving the focus from pressure on the Palestinians to a pointless debate over Arafat’s relevance and scrutiny of Israeli military tactics.
Furthermore, this declaration and the subsequent IDF military offensive undermine PA efforts to fight violence and terror, giving the impression to the Palestinian public and leadership that arresting militants not only does not make the situation better, but makes it worse. It also embarrasses the U.S., which is staking its own prestige on efforts to achieve a cease-fire. As noted by the U.S. State Department spokesman on December 12th, the U.S. is looking to Israel to take steps to help achieve a cease-fire, and in this context, both parties need to consider the implications and repercussions of their actions. The spokesman also stated that “as the Palestinian Authority acts [against terrorists], we look to the Israelis to respond positively with actions that can make the situation better and work towards a cease-fire.”
Finally, the newly popular idea of seeking alternative Palestinian leadership, while reflecting understandable dissatisfaction with Chairman Arafat and the PA, is unrealistic and does not serve Israel’s interests. Rather, an attempt to do so would likely relegate Israel and its people to a place where it will not have a partner with which to make peace for a long time to come, and pave the way for the rise of radical Islamic leaders. No Palestinian in the world would be a serious partner for Sharon in the absence of a credible plan for peace that includes a viable Palestinian state, and past Israeli efforts to locate alternative, more palatable Arab partners or leadership have been counterproductive. These include the attempts by Israel in the early 1980’s to promote “village leagues” as a surrogate for Israeli authority and to bolster Palestinian Islamic forces as a counterweight to the PLO, which together discredited secular nationalist Palestinians and gave rise to Hamas. Similarly, Israeli interference in Lebanese domestic politics in the 1980’s was linked to the assassination of a Lebanese president and the chaos and bloodshed that followed, embroiling Israel in a more than two decades-long debacle in Lebanon.
WHAT THE U.S. MUST DO
APN supports the view, articulated December 13th by Assistant Secretary of State William Burns, and echoed by EU Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana, that the U.S. still considers Arafat “the leader of the Palestinian people” and that the U.S. “will continue to work with the Palestinian leadership as it must make the very difficult choices and move against the extremist groups…”
APN calls on the U.S. to urgently make an all-out effort to broker a cease-fire between Israel and the PA, and help the parties return to negotiations. Despite the challenges and setbacks, it remains in America’s vital national interests to have peace and stability in the Middle East, particularly in the context of America’s global war on terror.
As President Bush suggested to a group of American Jewish leaders at the White House on December 11th, “We must compel Arafat to act with results in reining in violence and terrorism. We should hope that he succeeds – it is in America’s interest that he succeeds, and it is Israel’s interest that he succeeds.”