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Mideast Turmoil Produces Calls for Israel to Move Toward Peace with the Palestinians

Allan C. Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
April 2011

The current turmoil in the Middle East has produced calls for Israel to move toward peace with the Palestinians, withdrawal from the occupied West Bank, and the creation of a viable Palestinian state. These calls have come from many long-time friends and supporters of Israel.  
Writing in The Wall Street Journal (March 1, 2011), Andre Aciman, who teaches comparative literature at the City University of New York and is author of “Out of Egypt: A Memoir,” notes that, “Israel ... cannot afford to wait and see which way the wind blows as rebellion sweeps through the Middle East. Rather, it should seize the moment and show that it can bring about changes as momentous as those witnessed elsewhere in the region today. That means striking an honorable deal with the Palestinians, vacating areas whose occupation is unjustifiable and allowing Palestinians to have a country with a capital Israel learns to share. Israel must show its Arab neighbors that it can up the ante on their revolution and produce the long-awaited miracle of peace in the Middle East.”  
Columnist Joe Klein, writing in Time (Feb. 21, 2011), declares: “We should be clear about this: Israel’s illegal behavior in the occupied territories stands at odds with the values the U.S. is trying to promote in the region. Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren speaks about the ‘strategic alliance’ between the U.S. and Israel. But support for Israel is more a strategic liability than a strength. The moral alliance between the U.S. and Israel is far more significant. It is an alliance undertaken, despite the disadvantages to the U.S., to support a democracy and redress a historic wrong. This is an argument that can be made, profitably, to the young people in Tahrir square — but only if Israel respects the territory and the democratic rights of the Palestinians.”  
Washington Post (March 1, 2011) columnist Richard Cohen argues that, “Israel leaders are well aware that they face a new reality in their region. Whatever regime arises in Egypt, it is likely to chill even further what is already called a cold peace. The same might hold for Jordan ... Consequently, now would be the propitious time for Israel to settle with the Palestinians. I am aware that resolution of the Palestinian issue will not satisfy anti-Semites or extreme Arab nationalists ... Still, the creation of a Palestinian state — the lifting of all the onerous restrictions on Palestinian movement — will take some air out of this particular balloon and, possibly, improve Israel’s deteriorating moral standing in Europe and elsewhere. This is no small matter.”  
Speaking at the J Street conference in Washington, D.C. in February, Egyptian journalist Mona Eltahawy said: “The hatred of Israel will not end until you start treating Palestinians with freedom and dignity. This is the time for Israel to sit down and make concrete concessions.”  
Writing in The Forward (Feb. 11, 2011), Yossi Alpher, former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, states: “Hawks in Netanyahu’s government will almost certainly argue that Jerusalem is wise not to get too deeply involved in a peace process which could require it to make territorial concessions that it might regret tomorrow, in a very different Middle East. Others — myself included — would counter that the very absence of a peace process could encourage the next rulers of Egypt and possibly Jordan to turn their backs on Israel tomorrow. But we all agree that tomorrow is now totally unpredictable.”  
“Egyptians are as entitled to human rights as we are,” said Andrew Apostolou, senior program manager at Freedom House and a board member of the Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington. “We cannot call for Egyptians to live under despotism because we consider it strategically convenient. It is embarrassing to make a song and dance about Israel being the only democracy in the Middle East and then oppose the emergence of other prospective democracies.”  
Those Jewish groups who urge Israel to move toward peace, reports Washington Jewish Week (March 3, 2011) “say that if Israel does not resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict quickly with a peace deal, the new generation of leaders emerging in the Arab world won’t be able to see Israel as anything other than occupier and repressor of Palestinian rights. Arab commentators echo that thinking.”  

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