Letter to Joseph Lieberman about the issue of peace between Israel and the Palestinians September 6, 2000 The Honorable Joseph Lieberman United States Senate 706 Hart Senate Office Building Washington, D.C. 20510 Dear Senator Lieberman, My congratulations to you on being nominated by the Democratic party for the Office of Vice President of the United States. The Democratic Party is wise in its choice. I would like to review with you the issue of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Recent events occasioned by the Camp David negotiations between the Palestinian National Authority and the Israeli government has finally brought to the forefront the real issues that separate the parties. Finally, these issues will put on the table, examined and judged on their merits. Mr. Barak’s so-called red lines or the four no’s signal that finally, the real issues have surfaced and the negotiations on these important matters have finally begun. No # 1 – Israel claims that Jerusalem belongs to Israel and is forever and eternally undivided. Israel wants all of Jerusalem despite the fact that Israelis rarely visit East Jerusalem and has no legitimate interest in this part of Jerusalem except for the illegal Jewish settlements surrounding the eastern flank of the city. From the beginning of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank in 1967, Israel deliberately created these “facts on the ground” for the very purpose of creating an impasse when negotiations finally considered the Jerusalem issue. These “facts on the ground” were a creation of Israel and constructed with the complicity of the United States despite the objections of the international community and Palestinians. This being so, the “ethnic conquests” by illegal Israeli settlements are Israel’s problem and not a Palestinian problem. A reasonable and fair solution is the removal of the Jewish population from these settlements. The vacated housing should then be turned over to the Palestinians in compensation for Israel’s criminal neglect of Palestinian housing and infrastructure. (Between 1996-1997, the Ministry of Construction and Housing spent less than 2% of its budget on Arab towns and villages.). Thus, the problem of security for these islands of Israelis in Palestinian East Jerusalem territory disappears. Since 1967, every Israeli government, Labor or Likud, pursued a consistent policy of demographic and geographic Judaization of Jerusalem. The Israeli government expanded the city limits of Jerusalem from 6.5 square kilometers to 73 square kilometers, and later to 108.5 square kilometers. Creation of “metropolitan” Jerusalem produced a city of more than 840 square kilometers, which amounts to 15% of the West Bank. Since 1967, Israel created 15 illegal settlements in Jerusalem and demolished 2500 Palestinian homes in the process. Confiscation of I.D. cards by Israeli occupation forces resulted in the denial of residence in Jerusalem of some 50,000 to 100,000 Palestinians. Due to all this activity and more, Palestinians who owned 100 percent of the East Jerusalem land in 1967, control less than 21 percent of the land in 2000. All of these long-term efforts to change the status of Jerusalem prior to the start of any negotiations were accomplished with the complicity of the United States. This charade is not lost on the millions of Muslim and Christian Arabs in the Middle East. Our nation, through its policies in the Middle East, has tragically squandered its good will and credibility with the Arab nations. The “generous” offer by Mr. Barak to return small part of Jerusalem, in light of the facts, becomes a cynical gesture at best. Jerusalem has been expanded to the point of being unrecognizable. Barak’s offer of giving the Palestinians a degree of autonomy of East Jerusalem is a farce. Really, what he has offered is a piece of land that is east of East Jerusalem, which was part of Palestinian territory to begin with. “What is mine is mine, what is yours is negotiable” is what is going on here. It is my sincere hope that you will not support this “gesture”. Clearly, President Clinton’s attack on Mr. Arafat for causing the failure of the Camp David peace efforts confirms in my mind that the Democratic Party will not be the right party for the job as mediator in the dispute on Jerusalem. The Arab states recognize this new reality and have taken a position at the Agadir Conference in Morocco on August 28, 2000 that firmly supports the Palestinian National Authority’s sovereignty over Jerusalem and all the holy Islamic and Christian shrines. Any negotiated agreement that will lead to lasting peace must include an equitable solution for Jerusalem that respects the human and political rights of Palestinians and Israelis as well as the rights of the three religious communities. Peace means that Jerusalem will be shared between two peoples and three religions. The international community maintains an active interest in the Holy City’s future and international law remains the basis for deciding Jerusalem’s ultimate status. Until the final status of Jerusalem is negotiated, UN resolution 242 stands and East Jerusalem remains an illegally occupied city. Moving our embassy to Jerusalem before a negotiated settlement is completed violates our assurances made by then Secretary of State James Baker to Palestinians to encourage their participation in the Madrid Peace conference that launched direct negotiations with the Israelis in 1991. May I remind you that Israel is the only country in the world that recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The United States must not complicate matters at this stage of the negotiations by moving our embassy to Jerusalem despite the pressure that the Israeli Lobby places on members of Congress. We must not act unilaterally and move our embassy to Jerusalem before the parties have agreed on a final solution to the status of Jerusalem. No # 2 – Israel will not allow (except for a token 60,000 Palestinians) the return of the Palestinian refugees to their homes in Israel and the Occupied Territories. These refugees, who represent more than half of the entire world’s population of Palestinians, have lived in deplorable conditions in 59 refugee camps in five countries for 52 years and four generations. The Israelis fear that if the Palestinians return, they will no longer enjoy a majority Jewish population. Where is it written that Palestinians and Israelis should live in exclusive ghettos? I cannot think of a more destabilizing condition than to have these two populations living in ghettos side by side. A reasonable solution is to respect international law and allow the refugees to return to their homeland and/or be compensated for their losses due to their Diaspora. Nowhere, including the Bible, the Balfour Declaration and U.N. resolutions does it say that Israel is exclusively reserved for Jews. Only Zionists make that unilateral declaration. The German Government gives us clear precedent for Palestinian compensation when it paid European Jews for Nazi atrocities that occurred before and during the Second World War. Both the Jews and the Palestinians have suffered enough persecution. Allowing the Palestinians to return home will restore some degree of sanity to the Israeli political process and end the religious fanatics’ iron grip on the discriminatory and destructive Israeli policies toward the Palestinians. Allowing the Palestinians to return home means that the integration of Israel into the Middle East becomes a real possibility. Reconciliation between Israelis and Arabs is possible and long-term peace may be assured. No # 3 – Israel will not allow the formation of a sovereign independent Palestinian state. I am not sure what the Israeli’s are worried about. The Palestinians do not own a single Abrams tank, F-16 fighter, nuclear weapon, rocket or even artillery. Israel would prefer to have control over and manage (dictate) the relationship between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority. By doing so, it off-loads all the distasteful tasks of maintaining civil order in the Palestinian population without giving up sovereignty over the land. This ruse is a Catch 22 for the Palestinian Authority since most of the disorder in Palestinian society is caused by discriminatory Israeli policies! Going into the negotiations, almost all Israeli political leaders never even considered Palestinian autonomy as an option. Rather, Israel envisions a group of totally dependent apartheid cantons of Palestinians surrounded by Israeli by pass roads and territory. These Palestinian ghettos have no possibility of economic survivability. The ultimate goal of this strategy, one would presume, is to discourage the Palestinians so that they will eventually leave Palestine for greener pastures elsewhere in the Middle East or in the West. This is exactly what Israel wants to happen. I cannot think of a more inhumane and immoral course. I cannot think of a more inventive method of producing more hatred and violence. This road will not lead to peace and is contrary to the interests of all parties involved, including the United States. Arabs of all nations understand the implications of these Israeli policies. The last oil embargo in the United States will be remembered as a picnic compared to the next one if the United States persists on this course. No # 4 – Israel will not give up its settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. In reality, the Israel’s main reason for the delays in the ten-year peace process, negotiations and the failure to fully implement agreements was to buy time. In doing so, more settlements were created or expanded so that enough “facts on the ground’ will be in place to serve as an impediment to any agreement. The more settlements, the greater the impediment to a peace agreement. Honestly, I do not think that the Israelis really want a peace agreement. The longer the delay in finding peace, the greater the capacity of the Israeli government (of any party or parties) to confiscate Palestinian land and frustrate the Palestinians quest for a permanent homeland. It is not in Israel’s interest to find peace. As long as there is no peace, Israel can continue to receive 25% ($3 billion) of our foreign aid budget and have the pick of our military hardware to dominate that part of the world. The Israeli’s never seem to find a solution to providing adequate security for the Jews in these settlements. Security is itself a decoy to distract attention from the real goal, i.e. the Israeli’s will give up as little territory as possible, preferably none. Therefore, it appears that the dominant partner in these negotiations has stacked the deck so that everyone, including the United States, loses – except Israel. The “house” always wins in the end. Thus, Israel will never fail to fail to reach an agreement. This strategy is flawed. Winning the battle on territory alone will never achieve long term peace. Reconciliation and justice among all the parties will bring lasting peace What is interesting to me is how a small nation of a few million people like Israel managed to do what it does vis-a-vis our foreign policy in the Middle East. Clearly, the answer is the Israeli lobby in Washington, D.C. There is no other explanation. We, as Americans, should be ashamed of ourselves for allowing this turn of events to occur. Allowing our foreign policy to be dictated by a foreign government in this manner is an embarrassment. Fortunately, the American people are not stupid. The longer the peace negotiations continue, the more likely that the real issues will surface and enlighten us. Blaming Mr. Arafat for the failure of Camp David II is like blaming the chickens after the fox has had his fill and left the chicken coop. Eventually, the politicians who have succumbed to Israel Lobby money will have to answer to the American voter with an empty gas tank. I fervently hope that you will exert leadership with both the American public, the Congress and Israel and restore sanity to our foreign policy in the Middle East. If you do, then you will be known as a great statesperson not only in the United States but also throughout the Middle East and around the world. Sincerely, Robert Younes, M.D.