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Seeking Peace, Pursuing Justice

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II. Seeking Peace Bulletin

Issue #13
MARCH 13, 2002

Rabbi Eric Yoffie and Dr. Aaron Miller

Middle East Briefing -- March 12, 2002

The following is a summary of a conference call briefing for Reform movement leadership by Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President of the UAHC, and Dr. Aaron Miller, Senior Adviser for the U.S. State Department. Bob Heller, Chair of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, moderated the call.

This call was held just two days following Rabbi Yoffieís return from a week in Israel and 24 hours before Dr. Millerís departure to the Middle East on General Zinniís mission.

Rabbi Eric Yoffie, UAHC:

  • Israelis are in fear for their safety: they arenít going to restaurants, malls, stores, etc. They are resolute, tough, angry, and frustrated. They know they cannot give in to terror, but they also know that there can be no military solution to it.

  • The only thing that remains clear is that the status quo is unacceptable.

  • Most Israelis support a Palestinian state, but they are not sure how to get there given the lack of leadership displayed by the other side. A majority of Israelis support Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharonís recent agreement to negotiate a cease-fire even while terror continues.

  • PM Sharon has realized that being tough on terror without offering a political alternative to the Palestinians is pointless and doomed to fail. He has been viewed as a man without a plan.

  • We should support the American governmentís efforts at this time. Middle East envoy General Anthony Zinniís trip is an important symbol of American involvement and commitment to bringing about an end to the violence.

  • Whenever negotiations are renewed, Israel will require a careful review of the media and school curricula in the Palestinian territories.

  • While we are frustrated, we must continue to stand in support of Israel and her people. Yet, there is reason for optimism. We must be advocates of peace, a peace that provides for security on both sides, and support the U.S. government during this time.
  • Dr. Aaron Miller, U. S. Department of State:

  • For twenty years, he has believed in three truths about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict:
    1. That there is an equitable and durable solution;
    2. That the only way to achieve the desired outcome is through negotiations; and
    3. The U.S. has a critical role in this process. But, the U.S. must not impose its will on the region. It can only act as a facilitator.

  • The last 17 months of violence has only proven that there is no military solution to the situation. If the fighting ever ends, the long-term issues will remain the same as they were before the violence began.

  • Any political solution must begin with a renewed relationship between the Palestinians and Israelis.

  • Before negotiations restart, changes on the ground must first occur. Most importantly, the Palestinian Authority (PA) must dismantle the terrorist infrastructures and end incitement in the media. The Palestinian Authority has become de-legitimized by terrorism.

  • There is no moral equivalency between acts of violence committed by the Palestinians and the Israelis. Attacks against innocent civilians perpetrated by Palestinian terrorists are not equal to things like settlement expansion.

  • However, Israel must realize that it shares some of the responsibility for the situation. Israel must be prepared to let the PA security service operate, it must stop punishing all the Palestinian people through closures and curfews, and should give the PA room enough to maneuver and reestablish legitimacy among the Palestinian people.

  • What is at stake is the very idea that the Arabs and Israelis can work out their political problems through negotiations. Diplomacy cannot be allowed to fail. The alternative is a downward spiral into further violence and war.