Carlo Strenger is a talented and busy man. He chairs the clinical graduate program in psychology at Tel Aviv University and is an opinion writer in his spare time for Haaretz and the Huffington Post. His latest post at HP, “Open Letter to Mahmoud Abbas for Yom Kippur,” powerfully implores Abbas to convince Israelis that he really believes in a two-state solution for peace with the Jewish state. Here is an abridged version:
Dear Mr. Abbas,
…. [A] state of Israel that oppresses another people is an affront to my Jewishness and for that of the majority of Jews worldwide for whom human rights are an inviolable value — precisely because our people has suffered immensely from bigotry and racism. Given my sympathy for your cause, I hope you will listen to my call to you….
…. You must take the step Sadat took. You must come to the Knesset and tell Israelis that you recognize Israel as the Jewish people’s homeland.
Tell Israelis that the Palestinian people demand that their tragedy of 1948 be acknowledged and recognized; but that you do not demand physical return of refugees to Israel; that individual Palestinians can claim compensation for the loss of their homes; but that… you recognize that physical return is no longer an option.
You certainly know that for at least a decade, 70 percent of Israelis believe that two states for two people is the only way to peace, and that the same proportion thinks that in this generation there is no Palestinian partner for peace. The main reason is the second intifada. Less than two years ago you admitted that this uprising was the greatest mistake Palestinians ever made — and you are right: Israelis, ever since, have no longer trusted Palestinian intentions.
The other reason is that Israelis believe that for most Palestinians the two-state solution is but the first step in a two-stage process to abolish Israel as a Jewish state; that once Palestine is recognized along the 1967 borders, your people will continue to attack Israel physically and diplomatically; that you will insist that every Palestinian refugee around the world has the right to return to the lands and houses of their forefathers…. As a result, they say: Why take the security risks involved in implementing the two-state solution in which Tel Aviv and Raanana are within the range of Palestinian rocket attacks? And you know very well that this is not just a paranoid fear: The South of Israel has been shelled for years after Israel withdrew from Gaza.
I believe that Israel must take the security risk involved; that it has the military strength to deal with these risks … But…. I know that the Palestinian right of return is firmly etched into your people’s ethos; that this right has been at the core of your people’s songs, books and stories. You, Mr. Abbas, know that Israelis will never accept the right of return. …
The vast majority of Israelis have been born here In the last six decades, a vibrant culture has come into being here. … This is their home, and they will fight for it without compromise. This is not just the view of people like Netanyahu and Lieberman for whom, as you know, I have little sympathy. It is the view of Tzipi Livni… and Shelly Yechimovitch. You need to realize that it is even the view of the remaining three MKs of Meretz, Israel’s party most committed to liberal values. …
Your legitimacy as leader of the Palestinian people seems to depend on not renouncing the right of return. And yet, your success in establishing a state for your people depends on convincing Israelis that you accept Israel as the homeland of the Jews. …