From Palestinians, bombs, rockets and empty words

Rather than unilaterally declaring a Palestinian state, leaders must return to the bargaining table

March 28, 2011|By Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi

News of last week's terrorist bombing near Jerusalem's central bus station that killed one woman and injured 30 people reawakened traumatic memories of the dark days in Israel between 2001-2004 when bombs exploded regularly in Israel's buses, cafes and streets, killing more than 1,000 innocent people.

Those relentless attacks during the second "intifada" were the reason — the only reason — that the Israeli government built its security fence: to end terrorist bombings and protect its citizens. The fence has saved countless lives on both sides.

Commendably, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad condemned the bombing, Mr. Fayyad saying, "I resolutely denounce this terrorist attack no matter who stands behind it."

But words are not enough.

Israelis in the south of the country are living through their own trauma. Since last Saturday, terrorists in Hamas-controlled Gaza, armed and financed by Iran, have fired more than 80 rockets and mortars at civilians. Two military-grade Grad missiles exploded in Beersheba, a city of over 650,000. This action is consistent with the Hamas Charter, which calls for the destruction of Israel and instructs Palestinians to "kill the Jews."

For residents of the south, last week's barrages revived memories of the difficult days three years ago, when rockets and mortars rained down on them daily. They were once again hunkered down in shelters. To stop these incessant attacks and protect its citizens, the Israeli government launched a major military operation in Gaza in late 2008. It does not want to do so again — but no government can stand by indefinitely while its citizens are terrorized.

It could get even worse. Early this month, a new Facebook page was created in the Arab world — not to call for "freedom," as happened in Egypt, but instead to call for terrorism against Israel in the form a third intifada. This page garnered 140,000 supporters in two weeks.

These events explain why security is Israel's top concern and demonstrate the absolute necessity of face-to-face negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians to resolve their conflict, bring peace and achieve a Palestinian state.

All sides should recognize that a two-state solution negotiated by the parties is the only way to end this long conflict. Peace cannot be imposed by one side on the other — or by the international community — any more than a marriage at risk can be solved by only one of the partners. Both must settle their differences together.

Regrettably, the Palestinians have lately embarked on a different path. President Abbas quit the talks last September, less than a month after negotiations resumed following a long hiatus. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has since repeatedly urged the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table, but his pleas have fallen on deaf ears.

Instead the Palestinians launched a campaign to seek international support for a possible unilateral declaration of statehood along the precarious 1967 borders. And last weekend, Palestinian former chief negotiator Saeb Erekat announced that the Palestinians are planning to ask the United Nations to recognize a Palestinian state and grant it UN membership.

This is not the way to achieve Palestinian statehood. It cannot possibly succeed because it seeks to bypass negotiations completely. It removes Israel from the equation and ignores its needs. Indeed, this approach risks laying the groundwork for more violence and killing of innocent Israelis and Palestinians.

The international community must firmly resist this Palestinian strategy and Hamas's tactic of violence. President Obama should lead international opposition by demanding that both Palestinians and Israelis return to the negotiating table. He should insist that only a negotiated agreement can lead to a viable Palestinian state existing alongside Israel in peace and security — and that, therefore, President Abbas must resume negotiations with Prime Minister Netanyahu, without delay and without pre-conditions.

Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, a Potomac resident, is founder and president of The Israel Project (www.theisraelproject.org), a non-profit educational organization with offices in Washington and Jerusalem that provides information about Israel and the Middle East to media, leaders and the public.

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