clinton in jlem hotel.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Former US President Bill Clinton on Saturday night warned Israel against adopting unilateral steps "as a strategy" and called on the Diaspora to contribute aid and technology to the Palestinians in Gaza.
He said that unilateralism as anything other than a tactic "would require a very high wall," and that "true peace and security can only come through principled compromise."
Clinton, here to mark the 10th anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin's death, pointed out that four times as many Israelis and Palestinians have died in the past four years than during the Oslo process, which he called "our best chance for a lasting and comprehensive peace."
"If you work for peace and fail, fewer people will die than if you do not work at all," he told the Saban Forum, held at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem.
He faulted the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for the demise of the Oslo process, describing his passing up of the Camp David peace deal, accepted by then Prime Minister Ehud Barak, as a "colossal historical blunder," as was his "stoking the second intifada."
Clinton proposed three steps to encourage progress now. First, he urged Palestinians to "use their opportunity in Gaza to do a better job of fighting terror" and working with Israel's security forces. Second, he stressed that Israelis must find a way "to organize their politics" so that "their search for peace can continue" regardless of domestic policies.
Lastly, and "most important," according to Clinton, Diaspora Jews and friends of Israel "have a special responsibility to give financial, moral, and technical support to the Palestinian people to help the Gaza gamble succeed and to the Israelis to give them time to sort through their political situation."
He said if Israel failed to move toward peace, "the geographic and political logic that drove Yitzhak Rabin to sign the [Oslo] Accords in the first place will reassert itself with vengeance." Namely, that in the future, Israel will have to decide between being Jewish and being democratic.
Clinton also criticized the comments of Iran's new hardline president supporting the destruction of Israel as "outrageous," but added, "He was not elected because of his hatred for Israel or the West. He was elected because of the economic distress of ordinary Iranians, and which he promised to relieve by giving them financial assistance."
Returning to Israel, he said, "No Israeli artist in history could have written a political satire with as many twists and turns, ironies and dead ends, highs and lows, heartbreak and hilarity as the present reality in the last few years." While he acknowledged that he didn't know precisely where to go from here, he noted he had "some observations which I offer as a friend," since "I love this country and have spent a lifetime trying to persuade people to reach beyond their anger, their fear, their hurt, their insecurity, to find common ground and common humanity."
Before Clinton took the podium, President, Moshe Katsav, spoke to the crowd, which included luminaries such as US Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, US Congressman Tom Lantos, and US Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Katsav warned that the freedoms of speech, religion, and individual rights "are not means for freedom of incitement, racism, murder, and bloodshed," and also stressed that "democracy does not provide immunity from evil and intimidation." He criticized the "naive attitude" sometimes present in the free world, which "deters some from direct confrontation out of fear of the reaction of terrorist organizations" and which some are drawn to "by their faith in idealism." He called anti-Semitism a "failure" of leaders of the free world, and also chastised those leaders who make distinctions between the military and political wings of terrorist groups.
Like Clinton, he urged Israel not to wait in its quest for peace with the Palestinians. "Reconciliation and peace with the Palestinians is attainable and must not be deferred for the next decade or, even worse, for the next generation," he said. "We now have an historical opportunity, which must not be missed."