Op-Ed: What Obama should say about the Palestinians in the State of the Union

Morton Klein ()

Morton Klein ()

PHILADELPHIA (JTA) — If he wants to make progress in the Middle East, President Obama should use his State of the Union address to address some of the problems standing in the way of peace. This is what we think he should say:

“Two years in office has persuaded me that in our pursuit of Arab-Israeli peace, we have sometimes neglected key problems.

I am calling upon the Palestinian Authority to accept Israel as a Jewish state. It is not possible to achieve peace between Arabs and Jews if one side does not accept the rights and identity of the other side. No longer can we accept that Palestinians are taught to reject Israel and to glorify violence.

The United States cannot continue to expend its energy and credibility in peacemaking without this minimal condition being fulfilled.

Since the Oslo peace accords were signed 17 years ago, Israel has done more than its part. It ceded all of Gaza and half the West Bank to the Palestinian Authority and offered even more, only to be rejected. Today, the Palestinian Authority governs civil affairs for the vast majority of Palestinians in the West Bank.

The United States can no longer give unconditional aid to the Palestinian Authority — $600 million last year alone. We will now link U.S. funding to the Palestinian Authority to ending incitement, fighting terrorism and accepting Israel.

We still hear the speeches of hateful Palestinian clerics calling for the murder of Jews, such as the sermon broadcast on Palestinian Authority TV from Nablus’ Bourin mosque on Jan. 29, 2010. The imam there declared Jews “the enemies of Allah and of his messenger” and the “enemies of humanity in general,” exhorting Muslims to murder them by saying, “The Prophet says, ‘You shall fight the Jews and kill them.’ ”

We have heard Sheik Ibrahim Mudeiris say in a sermon on PA TV that Jews are a virus resembling AIDS. And Muhammad Ahmed Hussein, appointed mufti of Jerusalem by PA President Mahmoud Abbas, has justified suicide bombing.

We see PA posters that glorify suicide bombers. We see PA and Fatah statements and programs honoring terrorists, calling them devoted brothers, heroes and martyrs. We have seen the PA president and prime minister visit terrorists or the homes of suicide bombers’ families, mourning and praising them. We recently saw the Fatah Conference named in honor of Amin Al-Hindi, mastermind of the 1972 Munich Olympics terrorist operation.

We have even seen the Palestinian Authority honor Muhammad Fadlallah, responsible for the Hezbollah bombing that claimed the lives of 242 U.S. servicemen in 1982.

We have not seen Palestinian maps, official stationery or school atlases that show Israel.

The United States cannot be expected to continue to support the Palestinian Authority when it glorifies killers of Americans and Israelis. Under my leadership, we will no longer do so.

The experience of recent years, including my first two as president, teaches that peace is created not only through negotiations by the leadership of both sides, but must involve the people. Tragically, we see that Palestinian society is unwilling to accept peace with Israel, even if one were to be negotiated by their leaders.

A 2010 Arab World and Development poll showed that while in principle 67 percent of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza support peace negotiations, 85 percent of those surveyed said they would not support a peace deal that entailed compromise on key issues such as borders, settlements, Jerusalem or the right of return for Palestinians.

Jewish settlements that encompass only 5 percent of the West Bank are not the problem. There were no Jewish communities in the West Bank before 1967, yet there was no peace or acceptance of Israel. Why can’t 300,000 Jews live in the West Bank when 1.4 million Arabs live among 6 million Jews in Israel?

I am also deeply concerned that just as Gaza fell to the Iranian-backed Hamas, so too could a PA-run state in the West Bank. A situation in which missiles are likely to be fired into the heart of Israel — Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Ben Gurion Airport — is not one we want to see.

We need change in the Palestinian Authority’s actions, policies and culture.

We are urged by our Arab friends to pressure Israel to stop Jews building or buying homes in Jerusalem and the West Bank. We do not believe that peace can be built by barring Jews or Arabs from different towns and neighborhoods — a form of discrimination that my own country once had to fight.

Rather, we believe that a true peace will be one in which a Jew is as safe to walk down the streets of Ramallah or Nablus as an Arab is to walk down the streets of Jerusalem and Haifa.

I call upon Jew and Arab to make this sort of peace — the only possible one — a reality."

(Morton Klein is the president of the Zionist Organization of America.)

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