Dear Mr. President:
For those of us who have placed great hopes in your leadership to transform the path of the Palestinians, your words and actions over the past year, culminating in your speech to the United Nations on September 23, have been disillusioning.
Let me be clear: We reject the notion held by some in the Jewish community that there is no difference between you and Hamas. We also reject the idea that Israel has no partner for peace. Statements you have repeatedly made about accepting Israel’s existence and about rejecting violence together with your partnership with Salaam Fayaad have led us to hope that you would lead your people to a new beginning with Israel and the Jewish people.
We are ready to stand by that view of you despite events of the last year, but we do so uneasily and with increasing uncertainty.
What are we to make of your address to world leaders at the United Nations? You claimed that the initiative to get the U.N. to accept Palestine as a member state was not intended to isolate or delegitimize Israel. Yet you used the very language that was employed against apartheid South Africa to achieve that very purpose.
You used all the code words and phrases that provoke Israel’s isolation from the world community: racist, colonialist, annexationist, brutal, ethnic cleanser, aggressive.
You miscast Israel’s understandable desire to be recognized as a Jewish state, a recognition which should not be a big matter if the goal is two states living side-by-side in peace and security. Your claim that such a focus would turn the conflict into a religious one is simply not true. The U.N. partition plan of 1947 specifically talked about an Arab state and a Jewish state in place of mandatory Palestine. This signified international acceptance of Jewish peoplehood in Israel and says nothing about religion.
Some people explain your actions away by saying you must cater to your domestic constituency. If that is the case, I think it’s time to rise above that, to speak the truth so that peoples on both sides can have hope of a better future.
You know very well the history of Palestinian rejection of Israel’s right to exist, which has been at the root of the problems between the two peoples.
We have looked to you as one to break from that past that has been so destructive all around. What, then, are we to make of your piece in The New York Times, which blamed the 1948 war on Israel, or your efforts at reconciliation with terrorist Hamas, or your reference to 63 years of “Nakba” in your U.N. speech?
You say you will not come to negotiate until Mr. Netanyahu says in advance that Israel will concede all the territories and stop all settlements. Otherwise, you say, “I cannot trust him.”
Trust is a two-way street.
Let's stop this demonizing. Let's move forward. If you sit down to talk, you may learn that you have far greater reason to trust Prime Minister Netanyahu than you thought.
Your recent words and actions have once again placed front and center the real question that has faced Israel for decades: have the Palestinians given up their long-held goal to continue the conflict anyway they can until the Jewish state disappears?
Only you can answer “no” to that question by coming back to the table, by negotiating in good faith and by reaching an agreement that finally ends the conflict and provides for a Palestinian state and a Jewish state living side-by-side in peace and security.