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Reply to a Settler

Following are excerpts from a reply Ami Isseroff, founder of the PEACE Dialog, sent to a Qiriat Arba settler. It is relevant because it addresses concerns that all of us - on both "sides" have.

...You wrote about the sufferings of an 80 year old Jewish lady as though they were my fault or the fault of those who sought and seek dialog, and about the arms in the possession of the PNA, as though we did not know it. These two points indicate to me that you have not the slightest conception of what the PEACE dialog and MidEast Web dialogs are about, and what people who are honestly trying to engage in dialog want to accomplish.

Neither PEACE nor MidEast Web have an official policy regarding Oslo. Personally I am in favor of any agreement that will allow both peoples to exercise self-determination in Palestine/Israel and will not threaten Israeli security.
But political solutions are not the point of dialog groups.
I, and others engaged in dialog, have been well aware of the nature of the governments involved - on both sides. Is it a surprise to you that the Israeli government engaged in house demolitions?
Is it a surprise that Barak built thousands of new housing units in the occupied territories while claiming he was doing everything possible to pursue peace? It is hardly a surprise to me. Likewise, one would have to be deaf and dumb to not know that the PNA is spending most of their budget on military training, acquisition of arms in violation of the Oslo agreements and bellicose propaganda.

The point is, to try to go over the heads of the governments and build popular support for dialog and peace. To show the other side that we are humans - and by "we", since PEACE was founded by two individuals from both sides, I mean both Palestinians and Israeli Jews.

It was obvious to anyone with eyes in their heads that the policies pursued by both sides would lead to the sorrow of 80 year old Israeli ladies over their granddaughters, as well as the sorrow of Palesinians over their children and grandchildren. It was equally obvious that both leaderships could pursue these policies because they had succeeded in inflicting on their people's a cock-eyed value system in which rocks are more holy than human lives, peace means subjugation of the other side, and the acceptable way to deal with neighbors is to close eyes, ears and heart and fire away.

As you know, I and others, went to great lengths to try to get Palestinians and settlers talking. We did to try to avoid the suffering of this old lady you mention, and the deaths of Jewish children and Palestinian children. It was not the Palestinians, in this case, who were unwilling to try to make peace, but the Jews. You and I both know that. You know what responses we got when we tried to get settlers to talk to Palestinians. Closed ears and closed eyes and closed hearts.

The violence that we are seeing is the result of that mentality - the mentality that says we can close our ears, our hearts and our eyes and dehumanize the enemy. This was done on both sides. You say we have failed, but you do not offer any alternative - neither a political program that will bring peace or a social program. What is your plan? How do you propose that Israel can live in the Middle East without pursuing peace in any and all ways possible?

In the face of all this ruin, you wrote: "We were right from the very beginning"
What policy did you advocate as an alternative to Oslo, and what policy do you advocate now as an alternative to Oslo?

I am darned if I know: Do you want to annex all of the territories and give citizenship to these Palestinian neighbors?
Will you keep them as helots of some sort indefinitely in a real Apartheid state?
Or - are you going to simply ship all these people over the border and hope that none of our Arab neighbors or the EU or the US will notice?

What alternative is there to a Palestinian state on part of the land?
No alternative that includes a future for us as well. We are condemned to live together - there will either be two states or no states in Palestine.

A man in Lebanon wrote to me asking if the idiots have won. Maybe they have. Oslo and peace negotiations are currently a failure.
That failure does not prove that the idiots are right, and it does not mean the idiots have won - not yet, but they have won a major battle.

The "peace process" negotiations failed because idiots on both sides wanted them to fail and worked over time to make them fail. A self-fulfilling prophecy. But we cannot give up on the pursuit of peace.

Ami Isseroff,
Rehovot, Israel

haGalil onLine 25-10-2000

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