Sunday, April 4, 2010

To advance peace, Obama should encourage construction

Published in the Connecticut Jewish Ledger March 31, 2010.

In the last issue of The Ledger, Harry Schwartz and Miriam Kurland both wrote very similar, very misguided letters, both taken in large measure from the web site of Americans for Peace Now.

There is one sentence in the "AIPAC doesn't speak for me" page on the Peace Now web site at < aipac_doesnt_speak_for_me> included verbatim in Kurland's letter, with which I agree. APN says: "We know that peace for Israel is more important than the expansion of settlements."

Unfair as it would be, acceding to the Arab demands that Judea and Samaria join Gaza in being judenrein would be worth the price if it really would bring peace. Unfortunately, the reality is just the opposite.

President Obama's fixation on what are misleadingly maligned as "settlements" has already encouraged the Palestinian Arabs to waste another year. His apparently deliberate crisis-creation over a routine announcement about building ordinary apartments in Ramat Shlomo, inaccurately referred to by Kurland as being in "East Jerusalem" and by Schwartz as being in "Arab East Jerusalem," neither of which exists, led to Abbas reneging even on his agreement to conduct "proximity talks," which themselves would have been a step backwards two decades.

Our current president has accomplished something I had previously thought almost impossible: he has outdone his predecessors in rewarding the Palestinian Arabs for obstructing peace. Now, more than ever, they are learning that promoting violence and rejecting even dialog pays.

A more productive policy would be to encourage construction by Israel in the disputed territories while sending a clear message to the Palestinian Arabs that, rather than being rewarded for rejecting peace, the longer they delay the less territory with which they will ultimately wind up.

Whereas among the Arabs, the major disagreement between the extremists and the so-called "moderates" is whether pretending to be interested in peace is a useful tactic, among Israel and its supporters the major disagreement is over what strategy is most likely to induce the Arabs to finally make peace. Decades of unreciprocated concessions by Israel, as still advocated by APN, have failed disastrously. A more balanced approach is also unlikely to succeed in the near future, but seems a better bet than the failed and counterproductive approach of President Obama and APN.

Alan Stein

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