Keep Dreaming: Confidential memo to PA President Abbas

Wouldn’t we be better off if we were able to express regret for the ways in which we have acted regrettably?

Abbas 521 (photo credit: Associated Press)
Abbas 521
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Dear Mr. President, Whatever you do, don’t let WikiLeaks get hold of this memo. It could do irreparable damage to my reputation as a self-loathing bogus Zionist – not to mention harming your image as a genuine partner in the quest for peace. If you and I are both going to continue playing the important roles we have in resolving the conflict between our two peoples, this document must remain secret.
Let me get right to the point. The other day you declared that a peace agreement could be reached within two months. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu responded by stating his willingness “to immediately sit privately for direct continuous negotiations.”
Others might dismiss such declarations as mere posturing, but not me. I’m determined to get you and Bibi together to make this work, but for that to happen, I need your help in clarifying a few things.
Let’s start with the commendable way in which you’re readying your people to live side-by-side with us in peace. Actually, before we even get to that, let’s start with the very concept. You recently rejected Netanyahu’s insistence that you recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Fair enough. We Jews can’t agree among ourselves as to what that means. Why should we expect you to solve the problem for us? But might I suggest you counter his demand with an alternative formula: recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. Surely you’d have suggested this yourself if you’d thought of the idea, so go ahead and take credit for it – with my blessings.
Now back to preparing your people for accepting us as neighbors. I admire the commitment you undertook several months ago to stop all incitement. So I can only presume when you recently declared the Alashekeen band a national institution that you were unfamiliar with its lyrics promoting jihad, calling for “pulling the trigger” to redeem Jerusalem and glorifying those who have “replaced bracelets with weapons.”
And I’ve no doubt, now that I’ve shared this with you, that you’ll withdraw your commendation, just as I know you must be working to withdraw those obsolete textbooks still in use in your schools that advocate a Judenrein Middle East with maps that leave no room whatsoever for an Israel of any size or within any borders.
Surely you are as troubled as am I by the numerous studies, such as the one published this year by the UK’s Coalition against Hate Education, that reveal the PA is using EU aid to produce “messages of murder and martyrdom [that] appear in children’s television programs, radio and TV broadcasts... and, of course, school textbooks.” All this in addition to the incessant references to our being the offspring of dogs and pigs.
SINCE YOU know as well as I that the bloodshed will cease only when we’ve managed to create a culture of tolerance and nonviolence, I find it perplexing that your papers continue publishing reports commending you for honoring the memory of shahidim (martyrs by your calculations, terrorists by ours).
Among the most prominent you recognized this year are Muhammad Daoud Oudeh, mastermind of the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics, and Dalal Mughrabi, responsible for the cold-blooded murder of 37 civilians on our Coastal Road. In an interview in the PA’s official daily Al-Hayat al-Jadida, you defended the praise you bestowed upon her, asking what it was that we expected of you: “That we renounce our history? No, I don’t renounce it.”
Forgive me for being so bold, but wouldn’t we all be better off if we were able to express regret for having acted regrettably? We need not deny our history to take responsibility for it. I fear that if we are not able to do that, we will be condemned to relive it relentlessly.
It’s also troubling to me that in addition to venerating such figures, your media also continue to demonize us. Just a few days ago, Al-Hayat al-Jadida carried a story referring to Israel as a country “whose aim is destruction and ruin of humanity” and “which acts to disseminate the culture of hatred and racism among human beings.” The same piece referred to “the occupied Palestinian Carmel Mountains,” while the inferno raging on their slopes gave a PA TV reporter the opportunity to express his “hope that the... firefighting team... will be able to gain control of the fire... Even if an aggressive foreigner occupies our home and steals it, we don’t wish for the home to burn.” I appreciate the sentiments but am left with a question.
In documents spread before me, I find references to the cities of Ashkelon, Haifa, Jaffa, Tiberias, Ramle and, of course, Jerusalem as being Palestinian. Now the Carmel as well? What, then, do you have in mind as being ours, when we eventually face up to reality and make peace with you on the basis of the two-states-fortwo- peoples formula? IN 2000, when Yasser Arafat walked away from the farreaching concessions he was offered at Camp David, I finally understood that it was more important for him to be eulogized as the Arab leader who refused to legitimize a Jewish state than to be recognized as the father of a Palestinian one. I know this is not the legacy you aspire to, so let’s figure out how we can get you back to the negotiating table.
My advice: Let go of your insistence on a building freeze in east Jerusalem and the West Bank. Indeed, Netanyahu’s refusal to halt construction is at best illadvised.
But make that his problem, not yours. We abandoned Yamit and uprooted 7,000 Israelis when we withdrew from Sinai. We evicted another 8,000 when we disengaged from Gaza. So what difference is it going to make if there are a few more housing units built on one side or the other of the border that we both know will ultimately separate us? They will be evacuated even before the ink on our peace treaty dries. Try us.
There are more things I want to ask you about, like your “study” proving we have no claim to the Western Wall, but I’ll let that go for the moment, as right now I need your cooperation in exposing the true nature of Hamas, which we both know is the most severe obstacle to peace in our region. I don’t need to tell you that in 2010 alone it arrested 3,120 of your own Fatah loyalists in Gaza, executing some and jailing the rest; or that during this past year alone, more than 200 rockets were fired into Israel proper from territory under its control – a provocation to which we have responded with supreme restraint.
Hamas’s record on human rights and treatment of women alone suffice to label its pretense of being a progressive social force as one of the greatest charades of modern history. And the flotillas it has organized, supposedly for the purpose of facilitating the transfer of humanitarian aid, are a sham. All the supplies on the initial contingent of nine vessels that we intercepted amounted to some 10,000 tons – less than the average weekly quantity of goods moving from Israel into Gaza, which continued to flow at the rate of hundreds of truckloads a week, even at the height of our efforts to put an end to the indiscriminate shelling of the Negev.
Not to mention that we offered then – as we have ever since – to welcome the vessels into our port and transfer any nonmilitary cargo aboard into Gaza ourselves.
An occasional word from you about this and other humanitarian aid would be appreciated. The conference on Israeli medical services for those in PA-controlled areas that was held a month ago is a case in point, highlighting as it did the treatment of 180,000 Palestinians in Israeli hospitals and clinics over the past year.
Please get back to me about all this. If you and Netanyahu are only positioning yourselves so as to be able to blame the other for the collapse of the talks even before they begin, I’m not going to waste any more time in mediating between the two of you. On the other hand, if you can give me some honest answers, and if I can get your purported partner in peace to respond in kind to the confidential memo I’m sending him, perhaps we can keep dreaming.
The writer, vice chairman of the World Zionist Organization and a member of the Jewish Agency Executive, extends his thanks to Adam Margolis for assisting him in researching this column. The opinions expressed herein are his own.