Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Israel's Open Letter to the Arab World

Danny Ayalon pens historic op-ed in largest pan-Arab daily newspaper
15 Dec 2009
The Deputy Foreign Minister calls on the Arab world to step forward and join with Israel to defeat the forces of extremism and destruction in the Middle East.

Here is the link to the Arabic article--and below is the English translation

An Open Letter to the Arab World

By Danny Ayalon

Since the reestablishment of our state, Israeli leaders have sought peace with their Arab neighbors. Our Declaration of Independence, Israel’s founding document that expressed our hopes and dreams reads, “We extend our hand to all neighboring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighborliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help.” These words are as true today as when they were first written in 1948. Sadly, sixty one year later, only two nations, Jordan and Egypt, have accepted these principles and made peace with the Jewish State.

Recently the Israeli government has made significant steps to restart negotiations with the Palestinians and reach out to the Arab world. In his Bar-Ilan speech in June, Prime Minister Netanyahu clearly stated his acceptance of a Palestinians state living side by side in peace and security with the State of Israel. My government has removed hundreds of roadblocks to improve access and movement for Palestinians and has assisted the facilitation of economic developments in the West Bank, through close cooperation with international parties to expedite projects and remove bottlenecks.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, a right-wing government has, in an unprecedented move, declared it would refrain from building new settlements in the West Bank. All of these moves taken together amply demonstrate Israel’s willingness for peace.

This Israeli government is also committed to extend a hand to all of our Arab neighbors, its leaders and its citizens, to join together to face some of the major challenges facing us all in the coming years.

For the first time in many years, we find ourselves on the same side in seeking to quell and defeat the forces of extremism and destruction in our region. While many see the threat from Iran directed solely at Israel, we in the region know differently. Together, we understand the menace that emanates from the extremist regime in Tehran. A regime that seeks to export its extremist ideology across the region and beyond, while arming terrorist groups that seek to destabilize moderate Sunni regimes and aiming for hegemonic control of the Middle East and far beyond.

The Iranian regime has many tentacles spread out across the region sowing destruction and despair amongst the people. The enemy of the people of Lebanon is not Israel, but Hizbullah. The enemy of the Palestinian people is not Israel, but Hamas. The enemy of the Egyptian people is not Israel, but militant Islamist opposition groups. All of these groups, and many others, receive their commands from Iran, who wish to control and suppress any aspirations the region has towards freedom and advancement.

Iran seeks to hold an entire region, including its own people, to ransom and keep it engaged in conflicts orchestrated and directed from Tehran. Whether it is in Morocco, Iraq or Yemen, Iran is constantly interfering with Arab sovereignty for their own nefarious gain. Israel and its Sunni neighbors alike are in the sights of Khameini, Ahmadinejad and their minions.

If Iran is able to attain nuclear weapons, the situation becomes inexplicably and inexorably worse. The Iranian regime has demonstrated that if feels unrestricted in its ability to dominate our region, a nuclear umbrella will only embolden its acolytes to act unrestrained to the detriment of us all. Only together can we face this threat and remove it.

Another issue that entails mutual political will to overcome is the threat of climate change to our region. Many reports and organizations are pinpointing the Middle East as an area that will suffer gravely as rain falls even more infrequently and temperatures rise.

Recently, the leading international scholars on climate change met in Copenhagen and released an important report on this issue. They claimed that climate change will exacerbate conflicts and increase strains and violence among competing groups. We are already witnessing water rights and growing desertification as underlying reasons for the intensification of conflicts in our region.

“Making the desert bloom” has been a core component of the Zionist ethos and successes throughout the decades. Israel has been able to turn desert into arable land and barren landscapes into forests. We constantly share our agricultural miracles with our friends in Africa and Asia and it is for this reason that many countries of the developing world have sought partnership with Israel in addressing their own agricultural challenges.

However, as Israel’s founding fathers wrote in 1948, Israel is prepared to do its share in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East. Our partners in peace, Jordan and Egypt, and especially the Palestinian Authority, bear witness to our endeavors in this direction. Israel has actively cooperated with Egypt on the “Mubarak Project” for the establishment of an irrigation demonstration system in Nubariya and annually trains hundreds of Jordanians in Israel in fields such as sustainable eco-friendly agricultural methods.

For us to be able to face these and many other challenges, we need to break with the paradigms of the past. The Jewish People are here because of our historical, legal, moral and national rights.

Those naysayers who can not countenance a Jewish political presence in the region will doom all of us to many more decades of conflict and instability. It is time for courageous leaders to emanate from the Arab world as did Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1979 and Jordan’s King Hussein in 1994 and recognize that peaceful coexistence is far better for all of our people than enduring conflict and enmity.

We recognize that the Arab Peace Initiative is an important document, and is welcomed in Israel as a crack in the denial of an Arab recognition of Israel. However, like the Palestinian Authority’s dictates to Israel on the peace process, it remains frozen in 1993.

Since the historic handshake between Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat on the White House lawn, Israel has taken major strides both politically and strategically towards the Palestinian position.

Both in 2000 at Camp David and in 2008 during the Annapolis process, Israeli prime ministers offered the Palestinians everything possible for peace and on both occasions the Palestinian leadership rejected these offers. The Palestinian Authority, like the Arab Peace Initiative, is still holding to its maximalist positions and has not moved an inch towards Israel since 1993. These positions are obviously untenable for peace and reflect a worldview that ignores Israel’s significant gestures and seeks to enforce a solution that will mean the end of the Jewish State. Recent Palestinian and Arab League declarations only enforce this view.

It is surely time to look to the future and break with former intransigencies to create a better future for all the people of the region. Israel has gone very far and is prepared to do its part, but we must be met by a willing partner. Without this, the region is doomed to more conflict and will negate the unity of purpose in the Middle East that is necessary to face the mounting challenges from without and within.

Danny Ayalon is the Israel Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs

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Anonymous said...

if israel wants to fight extremism then she can do much more than just writing a letter. The occupation is one of the main problems in the circle of violence. Remember: without justice for the Palestinians, there can be no security or peace for Israelis.

Daled Amos said...

What occupied territory?
The land never belonged to the Palestinians who never existed until Arafat created the myth.

Before 1967, the land was under the control of Egypt and Jordan, whose seizure of the land during the 1948 was never recognized by the international community.

Before that, it was mandated land for Great Britain to oversee.

Before that it belonged to the Ottoman Empire--but there was NEVER a Palestinian state.

The only country that has ever existed on that land is Israel--then and now.

The land is disputed, but it is not occupied.

Anonymous said...

You don't see the occupation? Then I'm afraid you don't see the heart of the conflict. I'm not a lawyer nor a historian, but if the whole world (except perhaps israel) is using the word "occupation" and "illegal settlements" while reffering to that region, then those terms are good enough for me to use them. Anyway, we could discuss that topic for long, but i don't really have time for it now.

Daled Amos said...

To say the heart of the conflict is the 'occupation' is to ignore the history of Islam and Jihad--or do you think it spread because everyone thought it was such a swell idea?

What the world thinks is irrelevant--if you are talking about a legal concept then go to the legal arguments and documentation. "Occupation" and "Illegal Settlements" are legal terms, not matters of opinion by the man on the street.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I should really pay more attention to radical Islam and its movements. I never said the occupation is the only problem. But it is a BIG problem and if you don't realize it, then I think you don't (want to?) see the reality.

Palestinians are suffering, everyone can see that. They have no working economy, no army and no security. And please don't say they're the only ones to be blamed for that, because that's not true. Anyway, in bad situations like that, desperate people usualy turn to radicalism and extremism.

Israel says Gaza is not occupied anymore. Sure, but who controls Gaza's borders, airspace and economy? Surely not Palestinians. What's more, Israel can go and destroy their houses and schools and kill thousands of them whenever she feels so. Israel is building illegal settlements and illegal wall on the land where she shouldn't. Those things are just few of the reasons why there's no peace. I'm not saying Palestinian side is perfect or that it should not be blamed. Both sides are responsible for the situation we have today.

Daled Amos said...

Palestinians are suffering, everyone can see that. They have no working economy, no army and no security. And please don't say they're the only ones to be blamed for that, because that's not true

Of course it's true!

When Palestinian Arabs did not make killing Jews their top priority, the Palestinian territories had one of the ten fastest growing economies during the 1970's, just behind Saudi Arabia (which benefitted from the oil shock of 1973), and ahead of Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea.(World Bank, ratio of real per capita GNP in 1980 to real per capita GNP in 1970)

It's about time Palestinian Arabs be held responsible for killing civilians. Do you honestly believe the current situation would continue if the Palestinian Arabs stopped attacking Israel?

The above economic history shows that it most certainly would not.

Anyway, in bad situations like that, desperate people usualy turn to radicalism and extremism.

Than explain these attacks in the US.

Even better, explain then these attacks around the world?

And don't tell me it is all due to Israel, considering
1. How Muslims do not up for each other--see Sudan and how the Arab League welcomed the Sudanese president who is accused of war crimes.

2. Palestinians are unwelcome and persecuted in Lebanon, Iraq, and Kuwait

Sure, but who controls Gaza's borders, airspace and economy?

And who is firing rockets from there into civilian areas and schools?

Please give me the source that indicates that Israel actually controls the Gazan economy.

As far as the West Bank economy--you have a growing economy that is bucking the global trend, and proves the lie to the claims about Gaza.

What's more, Israel can go and destroy their houses and schools and kill thousands of them whenever she feels so.

Huh, you mean as opposed to the Gazans who actually do fire rockets at Israel "whenever she feels so"?

Israel is building illegal settlements and illegal wall on the land where she shouldn't.

It's not illegal if it's not Palestinian land. There are plenty of legal experts who have written that they are not illegal.

As for the fence--considering the huge number of lives saved (or have you forgotten about the suicide bombers), even if it was illegal, what exactly is your argument?

And on what basis is that fence illegal?

Anonymous said...

First of all, I think many things have changed since the year 1970. Today, Israel is still controlling Gaza through an 'invisible hand'. Israel completely controls the importation of goods into Gaza and exercises significant control over the exit of goods from Gaza abroad and to the West Bank. All those border closures we've been seeing are just a part of a deliberate effort to maintain pressure on Gaza by strangling its economy. Now, how can we achieve a just peace and an independent Palestinian state when Palestinians are struggling to survive living under severe harsh economical conditions and lack the freedom of movement, work and dignity? Again, I'm not saying it is all due to Israel, I just don't think the Palestinians are the only ones to be blamed.

Your two links don't change the fact that desperate people don't think rationally. Desperate people turn radical. It has always been like that. And that's why radical Hamas won the elections and that's why it is more popular in Gaza than it is in West Bank.

Do I honestly believe the current situation would continue if the Palestinian Arabs stopped attacking Israel? - Well, one should ask himself why do Palestinians attacking Israel in a first place. Why don't some radical Egyptains attack Israel, for example? I think the occupation is playing a big role there.

For the illegal wall (I agree it helped reducing Palestinians attack, but there are claims it stole a part of the Palestinian land) and illegal settlements I can only say two words: International law. There are plenty of legal experts who have written that they are illegal. The World Court calls a wall a gross violation of international law and basic human rights. And that tells enough.