The April 3 letter 100 American Jewish leaders have sent to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is distressing.

There’s nothing wrong with the latter’s specified intention of asking Netanyahu to cooperate with US President Barack Obama and facilitate confidence-building measures to try to get the Palestinians back to the table.

The problem is that the language used parallels the misrepresentation of Israel’s situation and positions. The way it is written, this letter seems to be not about influencing Netanyahu or Israelis, but about enhancing the social and political credentials of those involved, Israel’s security and interests be damned.

Yet those who signed the letter are all good people, none of whom are anti-Israel. But that’s why these people should have known better, and written this letter differently. None of this was necessary and the matter could have been handled with dignity and much greater effectiveness.

There are left-wingers who loathe Israel and want to see it greatly weakened or wiped out; there are conservatives who are pro-Israel though some want to exploit it for partisan purposes. But where are the liberal pro-Israel forces who should be speaking out sensibly, not merely rubberstamping Obama’s policy and mass media stereotypes? Here is the text of the letter text.

“Dear Prime Minister Netanyahu: As Americans deeply committed to Israel’s security, we were heartened by President Obama’s recent historic visit and his unequivocal assertion that “so long as there is a United States of America, atem lo levad [“you are not alone”].” We also are encouraged by the rapprochement with Turkey, which was achieved in great measure due to your leadership.

We believe that this is a compelling moment for you and your new government to respond to President Obama’s call for peace by taking concrete confidencebuilding steps designed to demonstrate Israel’s commitment to a “two-states for two peoples” solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We urge you, in particular, to work closely with Secretary of State John Kerry to devise pragmatic initiatives, consistent with Israel’s security needs, which would represent its readiness to make painful territorial sacrifices for the sake of peace.

“Your leadership would challenge Palestinian leaders to take similarly constructive steps, including, most importantly, a prompt return to the negotiating table.

“We join with President Obama in expressing our steadfast support for your efforts to ensure Israel’s future as the secure and democratic nation state of the Jewish people.”

What is wrong with this text? Israel is shown merely as responding to Obama’s orders, there is no mention that it has been trying to get negotiations restarted for 12 years.

The tone of the letter suggests, “Look at us! We’re the good kids! We don’t defend Israel’s past actions, we don’t criticize US policy or the Palestinians! The job of Jewish leaders is to criticize their own side and urge it to be nicer, even if that costs the lives of other Jews [Israelis] while they risk nothing.”

The outrageous reference to “painful territorial sacrifices.”

This phrase is totally unnecessary, since the letter is about immediate, short-term confidence-building measures and not about a final peace treaty. Why focus on a huge Israeli concession when the issue is just to get talks restarted? The word “painful” communicates to me that Israel should have to undergo pain and take risks while the signers of this document won’t even risk criticizing anything that Obama has done in regard to Israel. The letter ought to mention that the last time Israel made “painful” concessions, about 2,000 Israelis died in terrorist attacks and the country’s security was badly damaged.

How can such a letter not mention that Oslo-era experience or Israel’s other sacrifices for peace, the way, say, a New York Times editorial might? The letter maintains the absurd approach that first Israel must make painful and risky concessions and only afterward are the Palestinians required to do so. This suggests the typical anti-Israel narrative that the Palestinian leaders are moderate and want peace, while Israel is the barrier to successful negotiations.

It openly says that Israel needs to make big concessions even if the Palestinian leadership gives nothing back.

It is sad, because the letter could have been written differently and all the same people would still have signed it. It could have gone as follows.

“Dear Prime Minister Netanyahu: As Americans who have been and continue to be long-time supporters of Israel’s prosperity, security, and reputation, we were heartened by President Obama’s recent historic visit and his unequivocal assertion that “so long as there is a United States of America you are not alone.

“We believe that this is a compelling moment for you and your new government to continue to strive for peace – as you and other Israeli leaders have done for decades.

We know you and Israel have long shown a commitment to a ‘two-states for two peoples’ solution to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict.

“We are also aware that the 1993 Israel-PLO agreement marked a courageous effort to resolve the conflict. We know that the Palestinian leadership did not live up to its commitments at many points during the 1993-2000 peace process. Hundreds of Israelis were killed and wounded as a result of this sincere effort, and in 2000 PLO and Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat rejected the offer by president Bill Clinton and Israel of a twostate solution. Instead, Arafat turned to a violent revolt that often used terrorism and lasted for six years.

“We also remember how you cooperated with President Obama’s requests during his first term, including a 10- month-long suspension of construction on existing settlements.

We know that the Palestinian leadership did not negotiate seriously, despite your efforts.

“Nevertheless, without illusions and taking minimal risk, it is worth continuing this effort for peace and cooperation with the United States. Of course, Israel should make no concessions – whether confidence-building or otherwise – without concomitant concessions on the Palestinian side. We will work to make sure that President Obama and the American public understand this point.

“Among other things, your leadership would challenge Palestinian leaders to take similarly constructive steps, including, most importantly, a prompt return to the negotiating table. If the Palestinian leaders do not so respond, we will be loud and clear in explaining to the US government and American people that while Israel seeks peace, the current Palestinian leadership does not do so.

“We believe that either way a flexible policy – which you also followed during President Obama’s first term – would be best. It will show President Obama and the American people Israel’s will to cooperate and its true goal of achieving peace and it will challenge the Palestinian leaders to follow suit or be exposed for rejecting peace.

The writer is director of Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center http://www.gloria-center.org

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