II. Seeking Peace Bulletin
On Wednesday, June 13th, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and SEEKING PEACE, PURSUING JUSTICE hosted Dr. Yossi Beilin, architect of the Oslo Accords and former Israeli Minister of Justice, for a luncheon briefing on Capitol Hill.
RAC Director Rabbi David Saperstein introduced Dr. Beilin to the audience of Congressional staff members, and welcomed Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) as well.
Dr. Beilin began by discussing the cease-fire agreement that was publicly announced earlier that day. With the help of CIA Director George Tenet, the Israelis and Palestinians reached a cease-fire agreement, which Beilin sees as “another beginning, an introduction to a new chapter” and one in which we can see “a ray of hope.” He praised Tenet for his participation and thanked the U.S. Administration for their involvement. In his words: “The national interest of Israel and the American national interest meet each other in the Middle East."
Beilin’s talk focused on why the peace process is so critical to Israel’s security. He recalled the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s foresight to negotiate with the Palestinians.He stated that Israel, out of her own self-interest, needs a peace agreement for the following two reasons. One is to help insulate herself from the external threat emanating from Iraq & Iran. The second is a much deeper problem for the Jewish state -- the issue of demographics and the nature of the Jewish state.
Currently, there are 5 million Jews and over 4 million Arabs living between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. Eventually, there will be an Arab majority in this area. In order to maintain a Jewish majority, Israel needs to separate from the territories through the creation of an independent Palestinian state. Beilin argued this is why David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s founding prime minister, agreed to the UN Partition Plan of 1947. Ben-Gurion knew that there could not be a Jewish majority in the entire area.
Beilin continued by attacking the Palestinians for resorting to violence to achieve their aims, calling it “the biggest violation, . . . so big that it justifies the end of the process.” But, he cautioned, it is not in Israel’s interest to give up on the process. Even if Israel would be victorious in the international court, it is in Israel’s interest to continue to work towards a final agreement. How else will these problems be solved if the Palestinians and Israelis don’t continue to speak to one another?
Beilin closed by stating that it is not up to Israel to pick their partner but that she must deal with whoever is on the other side. While he recognizes that there are stumbling blocks between the parties, he believes they are surmountable if the sides sit together.