Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Middle East Conflict's FAQ's
Q:How can peace be achieved?
A:Israel has always been willing to compromise and all Israeli governments have been willing to make major sacrifices for the sake of peace. However, peacemaking requires concessions as well as confidence-building measures on both sides. Just as Israel is willing to address the rights and interests of the Palestinians, Israel has legitimate rights and interests that need to be addressed. Peace can only be achieved through negotiations to bridge gaps and resolve all outstanding issues.
Israel believes that it can make peace with a moderate Palestinian leadership that rejects terrorism. When in the past, Israel met Arab leaders, like President Sadat of Egypt and King Hussein of Jordan, who spoke the language of peace and were willing to take concrete steps for coexistence, Israel reached agreements with them and peace was achieved. Israel is willing to stand in peace with all the moderate states of the region.
Q:What is Israel's position on a Palestinian state?
A:Time after time, Israel has stated its desire to see two states - the State of Israel and a Palestinian state - living side by side in peace and security. Israel believes that a true resolution of the conflict will see two national states, a Palestinian state for the Palestinian people and a Jewish state for the Jewish people. Israel has no desire to rule over the Palestinians, and believes that a truly democratic Palestinian state fully at peace with Israel will promote the long-term security and well-being of Israel as a Jewish state.
Israel has no qualms regarding the establishment of a Palestinian state, per se. The only issue is what kind of Palestinian state should be established. Will it be a democratic state of law and order, which eschews terrorism, violence and incitement and therefore be a state with which Israel can live in peace? Or will it be an anarchic state that is continuing on the path of violence and terrorism, which will not only endanger Israel but the stability of the region as a whole?
Israel cannot abide the establishment of a terrorist state along its borders. Efforts towards establishing a Palestinian state must take Israel's rights and vital interests into account, especially on matters of security, so that there can be peace and stability in the region.
Israel’s goal of being a democratic Jewish state, living in harmony with its neighbors, led it to embrace the vision of two states for two peoples as resolved by the United Nations' partition plan in 1947. Israel realized that the peoples of the Middle East are neighbors whose futures are inevitably linked. No peace will last that fails to take this into account.
Q;How has the Hamas takeover of Gaza affected the chances for a Palestinian State?
A:Israel left Gaza in the summer of 2005 in order to create an opportunity for peace. It removed its armed forces, dismantled civilian settlements, yet left greenhouses for the Palestinian farmers in the hope this could be the beginning of a peaceful Palestinian state. But, instead of a flourishing peace, Israel received a hostile territory on its border: Israeli towns adjacent to Gaza are the targets of almost daily Kassam rocket attacks, terror attacks are frequently attempted and the terrorist infrastructure is growing at an alarming pace.
Despite this ongoing Hamas terrorism, Israel will maintain an ongoing dialogue with Palestinian moderates, in order to send the message to the Palestinians that if the moderates are the representatives of their national aspirations, they can achieve a state of their own.
Israel's guiding principle is that of differentiating between the moderates and the extremists, between those who are willing and ready to advance the peace process and those whose ideology is based on extremism and religious fanaticism and who treat even their own people with the utmost brutality. Israel hopes that the former will prevail, yet ultimately, the choice must be made by the Palestinians themselves.
While Hamas terrorists continue to target Israelis, they have also brought tragedy to Palestinians. As events in Gaza have shown, while the terrorists may claim to be advancing Palestinian rights, they have succeeded only in undermining them.
Q:What should be the role of the Arab world?
A:Israel desires peace with all Arab countries. It does, however, differentiate between the moderate Arab states, which have the potential for peaceful relations with Israel and the extremist states, which have no interest in peace.
The moderate Arab states have the potential to make an important and positive contribution to the peace process as well as change the face of the region for the better.
Still, the policy of confrontation with Israel has to be replaced by a policy of dialogue. As progress is being made in the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, the need for this change is ever more apparent.
While there are no illusions that the Arab states will agree with Israel on the specific issues in dispute, they should agree that resolving those issues will involve compromises from both sides. Israel cannot be expected to accept ultimatums or "take-it-or-leave-it" propositions. Israel will not abide by ultimatums which state that peace can be achieved only if Israel were to accede to all Arab demands and conditions; Israel's rights and interests cannot be totally ignored, nor can the need for compromise to resolve outstanding issues be neglected.
On the other hand, the extremist states of the Middle East must stop supporting terrorist activities. They must cease incitement and antisemitic propaganda against Israel which do nothing but generate further hatred and provide a fertile ground for terrorism.
Q:Does Israel have partners for making peace in the Arab world?
A:The Middle East is the scene of a struggle between extremists and more moderate elements. The continuous rise of extremist factions is having both a negative and a positive impact on the peace process.
On the one hand, the extremists (who often represent religion-based viewpoints), are a major source of destabilization in the Middle East as a whole, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in particular. Iran, which supports terrorist organizations, is not only a threat to Israel, but to world peace. Groups such as Hamas, Hizbullah and Islamic Jihad continue on the path of violence and reject all efforts towards resolving the conflict.
On the other hand, this rising extremist menace has caused more moderate Middle Eastern states to recognize the common threat the extremists, and especially Iran, pose. This has led to the creation of partnerships that would have been inconceivable only a few years ago and to the rejuvenation of the political process between Israel and much of the rest of the Middle East.
Israel is ready and able to work towards peace with the other moderate elements in the Middle East, in the hope that together we can keep the extremists in check and the political process on track.
Q:What is the status of Jerusalem?
A:Jerusalem is a holy city for the three monotheistic faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It is the religious status of Jerusalem which endows such great significance to this city and all that happens within it. Israel recognizes and guarantees the rights of all worshippers and protects their holy shrines in the city, as indeed it does in the country as a whole. At the same time that Jerusalem has a special status due to its religious import; Jerusalem is also the capital of the State of Israel.
Jerusalem is the "heart and soul" of the Jewish people's spiritual identity and national yearnings. On every occasion that the Jews have been an independent people in the Land of Israel, Jerusalem has been their capital. Jerusalem served as the Jewish people's historic capital since King David made it so in 1004 B.C.E. Jerusalem remained the capital until its destruction at the hands of the Romans in 70 CE and the subsequent loss of Jewish independence.
Jewish independence was renewed in 1948, with the establishment of the State of Israel. Shortly thereafter, the Knesset (Israel's parliament) determined that Jerusalem would be the capital of the State of Israel. Following this decision, government institutions were located in Jerusalem, including the President's Residence, the Government ministries, the Knesset and the Supreme Court. In 1980, the Knesset legislated the "Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel", which enshrined its decision in law.
Most states have not respected Israel's sovereign right to determine its own capital city, and have refused to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The reasons for this are essentially political, and are contrary to principles of international law. Israel should enjoy the same basic right as any other country in determining the choice of its capital.
Throughout the centuries, no other nation, other than the Jewish people, made Jerusalem its capital. While important to other faiths, Judaism is the only religion which places Jerusalem at the center of its belief.
Q:What are Israel's primary goals?
A:Israel's top priority is its continued existence as a state that is both a national home for the Jewish people and a democratic state for all its citizens, Arab and Jew alike. Israelis want to live in a secure country that exists in peace with its neighbors.
In order to supports Israel's identity as a Jewish and a democratic state, Israel realizes that it must promote a political process that will lead to two nation-states, one for Israelis, the other for Palestinians.
The State of Israel sees itself as a national home for Israeli citizens who live here and to Jews living elsewhere. Upon its establishment, Israel provided a full and comprehensive solution to the problem of Jewish refugees who were force to leave Arab countries and Europe.
Similarly, the future Palestinian state must provide a full and comprehensive solution for the Palestinians, including those who currently reside in the territories and those who left and have been kept deliberately as refugees to be exploited as bargaining chips during negotiations.
Israel's future as a democratic and a Jewish state is best secured by a peaceful resolution to the conflict. When that much hoped for resolution is finally reached, peace will bring benefits not only to Israel, but to all its neighbors.