Along list of influential American Jews have called on Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu to take “confidence-building steps” to resuscitate peace talks with
“We believe that this is a compelling moment for you
and your new government to respond to President Barack Obama’s call for peace by
taking concrete confidence- building steps designed to demonstrate Israel’s
commitment to a two-states-for-two-peoples solution to the Israel-Palestinian
conflict,” read the open letter to Netanyahu organized by the left-leaning
Israel Policy Forum.
Over 100 signatories included former senior Defense
Department official Dov Zakheim, former AIPAC executive director Tom Dine,
philanthropists S. Daniel Abraham, Charles Bronfman, Lester Crown and Stanley
Gold, Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt, former Union of Reform Judaism
president Rabbi Eric Yoffie, current URJ president Rabbi Rick Jacobs, and Hebrew
Union College president Rabbi David Ellenson.
The letter comes on the eve
of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to the region scheduled for the
beginning of next week when he is expected to meet with Netanyahu in Jerusalem
and with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in
Unfortunately, while the letter’s message of hope is
commendable and is shared with most Israelis, the internal dynamics of
Palestinian politics are far from conducive to a negotiated peace
Although Abbas probably does not want violence in the West
Bank to spin out of control and turn into a third intifada, some PA officials in
Ramallah believe that a “mini-intifada” would serve the Palestinians’ interests,
especially with Kerry back in the region after Obama’s visit.
daily clashes between IDF soldiers and Palestinians in the West Bank, so PA
thinking goes, will prompt Obama to exert pressure on Israel to make far reaching
concessions, particularly on the issue of prisoners serving time in Israeli
prisons for terrorist activities.
Abbas raised the prisoner issue during
his recent meeting with Obama in Ramallah. The Palestinians also handed Obama a
letter from the prisoners urging the US to exert pressure on Israel to secure
their release. And PA controlled media outlets have been reporting extensively on
the conditions of the prisoners, interviewing their family members and urging
the PA leadership to work harder to secure their freedom.
The death of
prisoner Maissara Abu Hamdiyeh from cancer on Tuesday provided the PA with a
perfect opportunity to escalate unrest. Though an autopsy has proven there was
no foul play, the PA leveled spurious claims at Israel, purposely and
irresponsibly inciting to violence.
Meanwhile, Hamas and the supposedly
“moderate” Fatah are fighting over Abu Hamdiyeh’s legacy.
As reported by
The Jerusalem Post’s Palestinian affairs correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh,
Hamas’s armed wing, Izzadin Kassam, has been boasting that Abu Hamdiyeh was a
member of it since its establishment in 1989, helped train terrorists and
delivered weapons and explosives to Hamas cells. Fatah sources claim in contrast
that Abu Hamdiyeh helped Fatah’s armed wing, the Aksa Martyrs Brigade, during
the second intifada.
Whoever has it right, Abu Hamdiyeh was clearly a man
whose actions deserve to be condemned, not praised.
instead of gradually preparing his people for peace with Israel, creating the
atmosphere for a return to negotiations without preconditions and taking part in
the give and take necessary for any peace agreement to work, Abbas and other
Fatah leaders are busy vying with Hamas for the title of “Israel’s worst enemy”
and instigating riots over the death of a terrorist.
Like the signatories
of the letter to our prime minister, we in Israel also harbor hopes for peace.
If, however, the “confidence building steps” mentioned include freeing dangerous
terrorists, as demanded by the PA, very few here would agree that the risk is
worth taking. Many here undoubtedly wonder instead how it is possible to make
peace with a Palestinian society that believes the lies its leaders tells it and
that is mobilized en masse by the fight for the release of terrorists
responsible for the deaths of innocent Israelis.