Peace letter

Like the signatories of the letter to our prime minister, we in Israel also harbor hopes for peace.

John Kerry on tarmac 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
John Kerry on tarmac 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Along list of influential American Jews have called on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to take “confidence-building steps” to resuscitate peace talks with the Palestinians.
“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 Ramallah.
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 arrangement.
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.
Scenes of 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.
Unfortunately, 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.