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Trembling at Moderation
Last uploaded : Sunday 21st Jul 2002 at 13:22
Contributed by : Luis Lainer



Internal Security Minister Uzi Landau’s recent closure of the al-Quds University offices of Dr. Sari Nusseibeh (see photo) has more to do with the Sharon government’s palatable fear of Palestinian moderates than any commitment to enforcing the law or preserving the unity of Jerusalem.

Dr. Nusseibeh is widely regarded as one of the most moderate leaders among Palestinians today. He serves as President of al-Quds University, as well as the PLO’s main representative in Jerusalem. Since getting the Jerusalem portfolio, Dr. Nusseibeh has sparked considerable debate in Palestinian circles with his bold statements calling on Palestinians to drop their demand for the right of return of Palestinian refugees as part of a future peace accord with Israel. He has taken the lead in speaking out against Palestinian suicide terrorist attacks—in Arabic and in Palestinian newspapers. And Dr. Nusseibeh has been in the forefront of a drive to revitalize the Palestinian peace camp and search for joint activities that can be undertaken with Israelis who also want peace.

Dr. Nusseibeh is the kind of partner that Landau’s boss, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, claims to be seeking among Palestinians. Yet Sharon has stood by and watched as Landau’s police have picked up Dr. Nusseibeh twice for detention, closed his al-Quds offices, and confiscated his files from those offices. In short, Landau and Sharon have sent clear signals that a moderate like Dr. Nusseibeh is the last kind of Palestinian leader that should be encouraged.

The message behind these signals is that Landau and Sharon are petrified of Palestinian moderates. Why? Because if Israelis see that there are reasonable Palestinians with whom Israel can talk and negotiate, they will soon demand that their leaders return to the bargaining table. At that point, it will become abundantly clear to everyone that Landau and Sharon have nothing to say that could remotely come close to helping reach a negotiated settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


Landau and Sharon have never supported the peace process, and they aren’t about to change their minds. Peace would mean relinquishing their ideological goal of holding onto the occupied territories and the 3.5 million Palestinians who live in them. Unfortunately, Israel continues to suffer because of their hardline positions. The terrorist attacks and suffering grind on. And within just a few years, given current demographic trends, the millions of Palestinians now living under curfew will eventually help make Jews a minority in the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. When that day arrives, Landau and Sharon will have guaranteed that Israel will no longer be able to survive as both a Jewish and a democratic state.

Meanwhile, it’s hard to swallow Landau’s protestations that he is motivated in any way by the preservation of peace treaties that he and his cabinet colleagues have worked so hard to shred. Yes, the Palestinians are engaged in violations of their treaty obligations (first, foremost, and most tragically, their commitment to abstain from violence). But it is equally true that the government in which Landau serves has no qualms about violating Israel’s own treaty obligations, such as honoring Palestinian control over Areas A in the occupied territories.

Similarly, his argument that the closure of Dr. Nusseibeh’s offices helps preserve the unity of Jerusalem and the application of one law throughout its borders is a farce. Despite all of the government’s bluster about keeping Jerusalem the eternal, united capital of Israel, Landau and Sharon actually have presided over its physical redivision: roadblocks have been established inside Jerusalem’s borders that cut off city residents from most of the municipality, while government services have been greatly reduced for those Jerusalemites who live in the eastern part of the city.

No, the real reason that Landau & Company continue to hound Dr. Nusseibeh is that they tremble at the thought of moderation breaking out in Palestinian society.

Americans for Peace Now and the Israeli Peace Now movement are standing firm with Palestinian moderates like Dr. Nusseibeh, who recognize that ending the current terror and violence is as much a Palestinian interest as an Israeli one. It would be refreshing if the Israeli government would also embrace moderation.
Luis Lainer is Co-Chair of Americans for Peace Now, a Zionist organization working to enhance Israel’s security through peace.
JewishComment is grateful to
Lewis Roth, Assistant Executive Director
Americans for Peace Now
for this article.



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