Browsing Posts tagged Palestinians

Imagine that you’re a parent who sends her children off to school in the morning worrying whether their bus will become a target of suicide bombers. Imagine that, instead of going off to college, your children become soldiers at age 18, serve for three years and remain in the active reserves into their 40s. Imagine that you have fought in several wars, as have your parents and even your grandparents, that you’ve seen rockets raining down on your neighborhood and have lost close family and friends to terrorist attacks. Picture all of that and you’ll begin to understand what it is to be an Israeli. And you’ll know why all Israelis desperately want peace.

Recent media reports, in Time magazine and elsewhere, have alleged that Israelis — who are currently experiencing economic growth and a relative lull in terrorism — may not care about peace. According to a poll cited, Israelis are more concerned about education, crime and poverty — issues that resonate with Americans — than about the peace process with the Palestinians. But such findings do not in any way indicate an indifference to peace, but rather the determination of Israelis to build normal, fruitful lives in the face of incredible adversity.

Yes, many Israelis are skeptical about peace, and who wouldn’t be? We withdrew our troops from Lebanon and the Gaza Strip in order to generate peace, and instead received thousands of missiles crashing into our homes. We negotiated with the Palestinians for 17 years and twice offered them an independent state, only to have those offers rejected. Over the last decade, we saw more than 1,000 Israelis — proportionally the equivalent of about 43,000 Americans — killed by suicide bombers, and tens of thousands maimed. We watched bereaved mothers on Israeli television urging our leaders to persist in their peace efforts, while Palestinian mothers praised their martyred children and wished to sacrifice others for jihad.

Given our experience of disappointment and trauma, it’s astonishing that Israelis still support the peace process at all. Yet we do, and by an overwhelming majority. According to the prestigious Peace Index conducted by the Tamal Steinmetz Center for Peace Research at Tel Aviv University and released in July, more than 70% of Israelis back negotiations with the Palestinians, and nearly that number endorse the two-state solution. These percentages exist even though multiple Palestinian polls show much less enthusiasm for living side by side in peace with Israel, or that most Israelis believe that international criticism of the Jewish state will continue even if peace is achieved.

Indeed, Israelis have always grasped at opportunities for peace. When Arab leaders such as Egyptian President Anwar Sadat or King Hussein of Jordan offered genuine peace to Israel, our people passionately responded and even made painful concessions. That most Israelis are still willing to take incalculable risks for peace — the proposed Palestinian state would border their biggest cities — and are still willing to share their ancestral homeland with a people that has repeatedly tried to destroy them is nothing short of miraculous.

It’s true that Israel is a success story. The country has six world-class universities, more scientific papers and Nobel Prizes per capita than any other nation and the most advanced high-tech sector outside of Silicon Valley. The economy is flourishing, tourism is at an all-time high and our citizen army selflessly protects our borders. In the face of unrelenting pressures, we have preserved a democratic system in which both Jews and Arabs can serve in our parliament and sit on our Supreme Court. We have accomplished this without knowing a nanosecond of peace.

We shouldn’t have to apologize for our achievements. Nor should outside observers conclude that the great improvements in our society in any way lessen our deep desire for peace. That yearning was expressed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the recent White House ceremony for the start of direct negotiations with the Palestinians. Addressing Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as “my partner in peace,” Netanyahu called for “a peace that will last for generations — our generation, our children’s generation and the next.”

For Israelis who don’t have to imagine what it’s like to live in a perpetual war zone, that vision of peace is our lifeline.

Michael B. Oren is Israel’s ambassador to the United States.

Expectations surrounding Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s fourth White House meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, are running high. The previous conversations between the prime minister and President Barack Obama, though privately friendly and constructive, generated press speculations of tensions in the United States — Israel relationship. The chief source of friction, it was reported, centered on the peace process and the best way to restart talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. continue reading…

Recently, on a University of California campus, several dozen students repeatedly and brutally interrupted my lecture. Their goal was to undermine the freedom of expression and delegitimize the Israeli state. They did not achieve it. I finished my speech, but neither did I applaud, as did many others in the audience, when the protesters were arrested and led out of the hall. I had come to that university specifically to engage with those students, to exchange ideas—complex and controversial as those ideas may be—and not only to speak but to listen. I did not exalt in their arrest; rather, I was saddened. continue reading…

Israeli minister of Defense Ehud Barak says that U.S and Israeli administrations are on the same page regarding putting new sanctions on Iran. In an interview to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Minister Barak stated that evidence is piling up regarding Iranian intentions to produce nuclear warheads: “that will threaten not only Israel but Paris and Moscow as well. Iran is not just a challenge for Israel. I believe it is a challenge for the whole world, I can hardly think of a stable world order with a nuclear Iran.”

Journalism is dependent on the reporting of truths and not unsupported rumors.  Governments are responsible to ensure that the line between freedom of speech and libel are not crossed.

This week,Alan Dershowitz Alan M. Dershowitz, Harvard professor of law and author of many books, including, most recently, “The Case Against Israel’s Enemies,” published an article, “Sweden’s Shame.”

Dershowitz explains that, “Nobody is talking about censoring the Swedish press or imprisoning the writer of the absurd article. What we are talking about is expanding the marketplace of ideas to include a completely warranted condemnation of sloppy journalism and outrageous accusations that foment an already increasing anti-Semitism in Sweden. Freedom of speech is based on an open and vibrant marketplace of ideas.”

Ambassador Oren

West Bank Success Story

The Palestinians are flourishing economically.  Unless they live in Gaza.

By Michael B. Oren

Imagine an annual economic growth rate of 7%, declining unemployment, a thriving tourism industry, and a 24% hike in the average daily wage. Where in today’s gloomy global market could one find such gleaming forecasts? Singapore? Brazil? Guess again. The West Bank.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the West Bank economy is flourishing. Devastated by the violence and corruption fomented by its former leadership, the West Bank has rebounded and today represents a most promising success story. Among the improvements of the last year cited by the IMF and other financial observers are an 18% increase in the local stock exchange, a 94% growth of tourism to Bethlehem—generating 6,000 new jobs—and an 82% rise in trade with Israel.

Since 2008, more than 2,000 new companies have been registered with the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Where heavy fighting once raged, there are now state-of-the-art shopping malls.

Much of this revival is due to Palestinian initiative and to the responsible fiscal policies of West Bank leaders—such as Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad—many of whom are American-educated. But few of these improvements could have happened without a vastly improved security environment.

More than 2,100 members of the Palestinian security forces, graduates of an innovative program led by U.S. Gen. Keith Dayton, are patrolling seven major West Bank cities. Another 500-man battalion will soon be deployed. Encouraged by the restoration of law and order, the local population is streaming to the new malls and movie theaters. Shipments of designer furniture are arriving from China and Indonesia, and car imports are up more than 40% since 2008.

Israel, too, has contributed to the West Bank’s financial boom. Tony Blair recently stated that Israel had not been given sufficient credit for efforts such as removing dozens of checkpoints and road blocks, withdrawing Israeli troops from population centers, and facilitating transportation into both Israel and Jordan. Long prohibited by terrorist threats from entering the West Bank, Israeli Arabs are now allowed to shop in most Palestinian cities.

Further, several Israeli-Palestinian committees have achieved fruitful cooperation in the areas of construction and agriculture. Such measures have stimulated the Palestinian economy since 2008 resulting, for example, in a 200% increase in agricultural exports and a nearly 1,000% increase in the number of trucks importing produce into the West Bank from Israel.

The West Bank’s economic improvements contrast with the lack of diplomatic progress on the creation of a Palestinian state. Negotiators focus on the “top down” issues, grappling with legal and territorial problems. But the West Bank’s population is building sovereignty from the bottom-up, forging the law-enforcement, civil, and financial institutions that form the underpinnings of any modern polity. The seeds of what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called “economic peace” are, in fact, already blossoming in the commercial skyline of Ramallah.

The vitality of the West Bank also accentuates the backwardness and despair prevailing in Gaza. In place of economic initiatives that might relieve the nearly 40% unemployment in the Gaza Strip, the radical Hamas government has imposed draconian controls subject to Shariah law. Instead of investing in new shopping centers and restaurants, Hamas has spent millions of dollars restocking its supply of rockets and mortar shells. Rather than forge a framework for peace, Hamas has wrought war and brought economic hardship to civilians on both sides of the borders.

The people of Gaza will have to take notice of their West Bank counterparts and wonder why they, too, cannot enjoy the same economic benefits and opportunities. At the same time, Arab states that have pledged to assist the Palestinian economy in the past, but which have yet to fulfill those promises, may be persuaded of the prudence of investing in the West Bank. Israel, for its part, will continue to remove obstacles to Palestinian development. If the West Bank can serve as a model of prosperity, it may also become a prototype of peace.

Mr. Oren is Israel’s ambassador to the United States.

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We would like to clarify a statement made in Ethan Bronner’s July 16th New York Times article, “Signs of Hope Emerge in the West Bank.”

Statement:

“Israel has promised to free a second frequency so that a competitor to Paltel can provide cell phone service, but it has not yet done so.”

Clarification:

Israel supplied a second cell phone frequency earlier this year, in accordance with its July 28, 2008 agreement with the Palestinian Authority to supply the necessary frequencies for a second cellular company.

The agreement is founded upon Israel’s commitment to assist in improving economic conditions in the West Bank. Unfortunately, competition between Palestinian cellular companies has resulted in this frequency going unused to date.

Furthermore, Israel’s Minister of Defense Ehud Barak wrote a letter this week to Palestinian Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad reiterating the fact that the second frequency has been supplied and is available for use.

Shortly after 15:00, an Israeli Navy force intercepted, boarded, and took control of the cargo boat ‘Arion,’ which was bearing the flag of Greece and was illegally attempting to enter the Gaza Strip.

The boat departed from Cyprus yesterday. Yesterday evening, the Israeli Navy contacted the boat while at sea, clarifying that it would not be permitted to enter Gazan coastal waters because of security risks in the area.

Disregarding all warnings made, the cargo boat entered Gazan coastal waters. As a result of the actions taken by the boat crew, an Israeli Navy force intercepted, boarded, and took control of the boat, directing it towards Ashdod, Israel.

No shots were fired during the boarding of the boat. The boat crew will be handed over to the appropriate authorities.

Humanitarian goods found on board the boat will be transferred to the Gaza Strip, subject to authorization.

The IDF Spokesperson Unit would like to emphasize that any organization or country that wishes to transfer humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, can legally do so via the established crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip with prior coordination.

The State of Israel today released 224 Palestinian prisoners, thereby implementing a government decision made on 07 December. The release of prisoners is meant as a measure of building confidence in the moderate government of President Mahmoud Abbas and in the process of negotiations he has undertaken with Israel. Israel’s actions also send the message that the pursuit of terrorism and violence cannot achieve anything. Today’s prisoner release comes in honor of the Eid al-Adha holiday and in deference to the high priority given to this issue within Palestinian society. The Jerusalem Post has further information on these developments.