As I indicated on Sept. 7, the NY Jewish Week recently published an op-ed, “Israel Has Always Been a Jewish State,” by Menachem Z. Rosensaft, a former president of the Labor Zionist Alliance (now Ameinu) who denounces Mahmoud Abbas for supposedly making some very harsh statements, including a rejection of Jewish soldiers serving on any NATO or third party force enlisted to facilitate Israeli-Palestinian peace.
Hussein Ibish, a senior research fellow for the American Task Force on Palestine, an Arab-American advocate for a negotiated two-state agreement whom I often dialogue with, reacted as follows when I asked him about this:
That statement that was attributed to him [Abbas] in Cairo runs counter to everything he has ever said in all other contexts and was specifically denied by his office and his spokespeople and himself. What Abbas has said, repeatedly and clearly and without being misreported but directly, is that he is amenable to any third party peacekeeping force except Israeli troops, and that he would welcome Jewish troops and even Jewish commanders as long as they are not Israeli among them. The confusion of the Arab reporters may come from a misinterpretation of the word “Israeli” with the word “Jew,” which is a common but erroneous transposition of meaning in Arab political discourse.
Any rate, the sentiments and the policies are clearly not his and this was all cleared up at the time very quickly. Only people who wish to distort his policies and positions bring up this notorious misquotation or misattribution, time and again.
I responded in turn that I don’t think that Rosensaft is intentionally malicious in reporting it this way, because his background is dovish. There’s a lot of suspicion among Israelis and Israel’s supporters that Abbas and Fatah are not sincere in wishing to negotiate a two-state solution.
If this quote is the result of a mistranslation or otherwise untrue, then we and they need to know this. This kind of confusion just strengthens hardline attitudes and policies; and it’s one of the reasons that the dovish left has all but collapsed electorally in Israel.
|M.K. Einat Wilf|
For example, there’s this from Ehud Barak’s Independence party Knesset caucus leader, Einat Wilf, as reported in NY Jewish Week, in response to the question of whether she still considers herself a “leftist”:
…. I certainly came from your classic Labor Zionist household. I was a huge believer in the Oslo Accords, in peace. I always believed the day the Palestinians get a state in the West Bank and Gaza would be the day we’d have peace, that this is really just about a territorial conflict and ending Israel’s presence in the West Bank and Gaza … But the last decade, with the failure of Camp David, the intifada, the disengagement, the repeated failures of the Palestinian leadership to take advantage of opportunities to have a state has made me very skeptical. I began to question whether the Palestinians want a state more than they want the Jews not to have a state. They may want a state, but it’s second or third priority after making sure the Jews don’t have their state … I’ve become increasingly convinced that the conflict is not about simple territorial claims that can be resolved by finding where exactly the border should go. At the core, the entire Palestinian identity is wrapped in the battle against Zionism. It emerged as a separate identity only through this battle, and for them justice was always more important than statehood. … Given the opportunity to have a state but not perfect justice they’ve always tried to pursue their version of justice and given up on having a state…
I felt the self-flagellation that has become a mark of the left — we don’t have peace because Israel didn’t do enough, in Camp David Barak should have been nicer to Arafat, should have let him go first through the door — it was getting to the point of just being ridiculous…
I’m still in the left in the sense that if by some miracle tomorrow there were an agreement with the Palestinians and it came to a vote in Knesset and we had to get out of the West Bank, I’d vote for it. I don’t have an emotional problem or attachment or messianic views that would make that difficult for me … But I’ve become skeptical that this is what the conflict is about and that it is possible to reach an agreement …
The burden is upon all of us in the liberal or moderate left camp for a negotiated peace to counter such understandable disillusionment and misunderstandings as articulated by Rosensaft and Wilf.