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Dr. Einat Wilf MP, Jerusalem

There is new hope for steps towards peace after the Obama and Netanyahu speeches in May 2011 For the Palestinians’ sake

by Dr. Einat Wilf MP, Jerusalem

In the flurry of the oratorical duel between U.S. President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, one important agreement between the two has been overlooked. The President and the Prime Minister agreed and emphasized that any real peace would entail Palestinian recognition of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people.

The Obama-Netanyahu dialog is a step forward Many supporters of peace in Europe and around the world have viewed this as a step back, thinking that the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s demand − now supported by the American President − is merely a hawkish ploy to avoid negotiations and a sad mark of Israel’s low self-confidence that it needs the Palestinians − of all people − to tell it what it is.

But this demand is neither. It is the one core demand that, once met, will mean that peace is truly possible. Indeed, Israel does not need Palestinian recognition of its identity as the homeland of the Jewish people. Those who have dreamt, created and built it, have done so with one purpose in mind − to create a homeland for the Jewish people. It is Israel’s raison d’être − its very reason for existing. Rather, it is the Palestinians − for their own sake and dignity − who need to recognize this.

Historical aspects to consider Zionism remains a political movement of self-determination for the Jewish people. The Palestinian national movement was about resisting Zionism and its program of building a state for the Jewish people. In the process of resisting, and given the continued failure of resistance, the Palestinians have told themselves a story according to which Zionism is a colonial movement, which has brought strangers to their land, strangers that − faced with determined resistance − are destined, sooner or later, to leave their land. In doing so, the Palestinians might have been telling themselves a comforting story of hope, but ought to discard, if they are ever to have a state of their own.

To turn from hope into a state of action Hope is generally considered a positive word − but if it prevents engagement with reality, while living in suspended waiting for some make-believe future that will never materialize, then it is neither positive nor helpful. Those who feed this hope do the cause of peace and Palestinian statehood no favor.

Zionism, unlike colonial movements, was a movement of people who have come home. As such, it was not about exploiting the (sadly, non-existing) resources of a foreign land, but about exploiting the only resources the Jewish people ever had − their own brains and ingenuity − in order to build a country, literally from the ground up.

Building a country requires the mobilization of a people. As long as the Palestinians continue to divert their own countrybuilding resources into resisting Israel and hoping for its disappearance (and yes, hoping that Israel would become just some generic country with a Jewish minority among Arabs is hoping for its disappearance), there will be no peace and they will have no state. And yet, should the Palestinians finally recognize that in creating the state of Israel, the Jewish people have come home, they will signal to the world, to Israel, but above all, to themselves, that they have chosen to leave behind the siren call of resistance to colonialism and are ready to get down to the remarkable, difficult and immensely rewarding task of building a state they can call their own.

Dr. Einat Wilf is a member of Knesset on behalf of the Independence Party and sits on Israels, Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

Arab and Jewish refugees − more than 60 years of suffering, absorption and integration

Integration of Jewish and Arab Refugees after 1948 In 1948, about 600,000 Jewish refugees fled from Arab countries to Israel (photo on the left), and about 540,000 to 720,000 of the Arab population of Mandatory Palestine fled to Arab states from the portion of Palestine that is now Israel (photo on the right). While the Jewish refugees became full Israeli citizens, many Arab refugees remained “refugees“ unaided by the neighboring Arab countries.

Jerusalem − changing fortunes of a city touched by God

U. S. President Obama’s speech on the Middle East, 19 May 2011 in Washington (Excerpts)

(…) For decades, the conflict between Israelis and Arabs has cast a shadow over the region. (…)At a time when the people of the Middle East and North Africa are casting off the burdens of the past, the drive for a lasting peace that ends the conflict and resolves all claims is more urgent than ever. That’s certainly true for the two parties involved. For the Palestinians, efforts to delegitimize Israel will end in failure. (…) Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection. And Palestinians will never realize their independence by denying the right of Israel to exist. As for Israel, our friendship is rooted deeply in a shared history and shared values. Our commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable. (…) But precisely because of our friendship, it’s important that we tell the truth: The status quo is unsustainable, and Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace. (…) So while the core issues of the conflict must be negotiated, the basis of those negotiations is clear: a viable Palestine, a secure Israel. The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine. We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized bor ders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their full potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state. These principles provide a foundation for negotiations. Palestinians should know the territorial outlines of their state; Israelis should know that their basic security concerns will be met. (…) That is the choice that must be made − not simply in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but across the entire region − a choice between hate and hope; between the shackles of the past and the promise of the future. It’s a choice that must be made by leaders and by the people, and it’s a choice that will define the future of a region that served as the cradle of civilization and a crucible of strife. (…)

Speech of Israli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to a joint session, US Congress, 24 May (Excerpts)

(…) The peace agreements between Israel and Egypt and Israel and Jordan are vital, but they’re not enough. We must also find a way to forge a lasting peace with the Palestinians. Two years ago, I publicly committed to a solution of two states for two peoples: a Palestinian state alongside a Jewish state. (…) We’re not the British in India. We’re not the Belgians in the Congo. This is the land of our forefathers, the land of Israel, to which Abraham brought the idea of one God, where David set out to confront Goliath, and where Isaiah saw a vision of eternal peace. (…) But there is another truth: The Palestinians share this small land with us. We seek a peace in which they’ll be neither Israel’s subjects nor its citizens. They should enjoy a national life of dignity as a free, viable and independent people living in their own state. They should enjoy a prosperous economy where their creativity and initiative can flourish. (…) Peace would herald a new day for both our peoples, and it could also make the dream of a broader Arab-Israeli peace a realistic possibility. (…) President Abbas must do what I have done. I stood before my people - and I told you it wasn’t easy for me. I stood before my people, and I said, “I will accept a Palestinian state.” It’s time for President Abbas to stand before his people and say, “I will accept a Jewish state.” Those six words will change history. They’ll make it clear to the Palestinians that this conflict must come to an end, that they’re not building a Palestinian state to continue the conflict with Israel, but to end it. And those six words will convince the people of Israel that they have a true partner for peace. (…)

After Bin Laden’s death, the terrorist threat by Al Qaeda to the West remains clear and present The time after Bin Laden

by Matthew Levitt, Director, The Washington Institute, Washington

While loss of Bin Laden is a major blow to the morale of Al Qaeda, terrorist threat to the West remains clear and present. Nearly 10 years after the attacks of 9 11, and a year to the day after the Times Square bomb plot, U.S. Special Forces killed Al Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden in a safe house some 40 miles north of Islamabad, Pakistan. Many pundits were quick to point out that Bin Laden became little more than a figurehead for Al Qaeda long ago and dismissed his death as little more than a moral victory. In fact, it now appears from the intelligence gathered at his compound that Bin Laden continued to play a hands-on operational role even while he remained in hiding. Perhaps more importantly, he was the face of the organization and the voice of its extremist narrative and ideology. His death could mark a turning point in the decade-long global struggle against terrorism.

A major blow to the morale of Al Queda In the near term, Bin Laden’s death presents an opportunity for terrorist recruiters and fund-raisers. Like that of Che Guevara, Bin Laden’s countenance will appear on T-shirts and posters for a long time to come. As an advertising and fundraising tool, he may prove to be as effective in death as he was in life, as least in the short term. But the loss of Bin Laden is more than just the loss of a household name; it is a major blow to the morale of Al Qaeda foot soldiers and the stability of the leadership of the Al Qaeda core. Bin Laden’s deputy, the Egyptian physician-turned-terrorist Ayman al-Zawahiri, will undoubtedly succeed the dead man as chief of Al Qaeda. But whereas Bin Laden was a unifying figurehead, Zawahiri is a divisive figure whose accession to the top spot in the hierarchy may well rekindle simmering tensions between Al Qaeda’s Egyptian, Yemeni and other members and followers. Such tensions have a long history within the organization.

The Arab Spring and Al Qaeda Further, it can’t be overstated that Bin Laden’s death, on the heels of the Arab Spring, comes at a sensitive time for Al Qaeda. The upheavals throughout the region have presented an especially acute challenge to Al Qaeda’s nihilistic ideology and world-view. In a matter of weeks, a bunch of Arab youth succeeded in doing relatively peacefully what Al Qaeda and its ilk failed to accomplish through many years of indiscriminate violence. With some of Al Qaeda’s original ideologues recanting their support for the group’s acts of violence, and the Middle East looking not toward the terrorist network , which offers no alternative to the status quo, but toward technocratic political reformers who offer a concrete platform for near-term change, the loss of Bin Laden will be especially felt. In fact, just in the weeks leading up to Bin Laden’s death, a PewResearchCenter survey of Muslim publics around the world found little support for the Al Qaeda leader.

Western societies remain favoured targets Yet, as can be expected, all is not rosy. Despite his death, the groups, franchises and followers Bin Laden founded and inspired continue to aim at Western targets. Just some weeks ago, German authorities arrested three suspected Al Qaeda operatives who were reportedly in the final stages of planning terrorist attacks in Germany. This is just the latest international plot to highlight the fact that the terrorist threat to the West remains clear and present. Not only Al Qaeda and franchises like Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, but affiliates like Lashkar-e-Taiba and homegrown extremists inspired by Al Qaeda’s radical narrative and ideology, remain intent on, and, to varying degrees, capable of, carrying out terrorist attacks.

Bin Laden’s death will not end terrorism Whether Bin Laden is dead or alive, some of these organized terrorists and homegrown violent extremists will continue to demonstrate a resolve to take overt, operational steps to carry out terrorist actions. Indeed, his death may push some over the radical edge and mobilize others already radicalized to carry out terrorist plots. But it is also true that intelligence operations force our adversaries to react, creating communications, travel and funding trails that can lead to further disruptions These will not end terrorism, which has spread well beyond the Al Qaeda core, but they could usher in further counter-terrorism successes in the long war against the asymmetric threat of global terrorism. The death of Bin Laden is more than just a violent shake of the tree; it is more like chopping down the tallest tree in the forest.

Matthew Levitt is Director of the Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence at The Washington Institute.

News: New head of Al Qaeda

The Egyptian “Doctor” Aiman al-Sawahiri, to date Nr. 2 behind Bin Laden, was selected Head of Al Qaeda on 16 June, 2011.