I am a Zionist and god-fearing observant Jew, and I believe that our foremost duty as Jews is to act according to basic human moral standards, that is, before observing the edicts between God and man, we have an obligation to observe the basic edicts that dictate the correct treatment of our fellow human beings: with dignity, love of humankind, freedom to all human beings, without discriminating men and women or religious beliefs.
When I observe what is occurring between Israelis and Palestinians I feel great shame. The Palestinians are no saints, there are some amongst them that have wished to destroy Israel from its inception, but the same could be said of other Arab states, such as Egypt and Jordan, that later signed peace treaties with Israel that stand to this day. Also amongst the Palestinians there are various organizations, such as the Fatah that wanted to destroy Israel and has since recognized in the legitimacy of Israel and has negotiated with it through the Oslo treaties, yet Israel has let down the Fatah. The Hamas was started with Israel’s support as an opposition to the Fatah, this has backfired since today the Hamas works against Israel.
I would like to mention that the Hamas is responsible of the death of my son Arik, yet over the years I have conversed many times with Hamas leaders, I believe that we must talk to even our worst enemies, if it means solving the problem. You can certainly find amongst the Hamas responsible leaders that are interested in peace with Israel.
Overall, I have no doubt that as soon as the Israelis and the Palestinians agree on a peace agreement that would be fair to both sides, most of the Palestinian public would support such an agreement, and oppose the opponents of peace.
I was very close to Rabin, Arafat, Peres, Barak, Beilin and many other leaders. I have conducted hundreds of meetings with central political personages both in Israel, Palestine, USA and Europe, when even when that leader or the other spoke well of peace, sometimes the distance between talk and action was interrupted because of limitations of public opinion.
To my greatest sorrow, there is no leader at the moment in Israel willing to take the required steps to reach peace.
Before I go into these required steps, I want to emphasize that as an observant Jew and Zionist I do believe that the entire land of Israel was promised by the Lord to the people of Israel for all generations to come. The verse “And the Lord appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the Lord, who appeared unto him” (Genesis 12, 7) for me is a religious landmark that corresponds to the ideal of a Greater Israel, yet we must remember two important things:
A.God’s promise to Abraham is conditioned with the people of Israel’s commitment to God’s edicts. Moses before his passing – three times- mentions the conditions for the reception of the land of Israel: “Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the Lord God of your fathers giveth you.” (Deuteronomy 4,1), “All the commandments which I command thee this day shall ye observe to do, that ye may live, and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers.”(Deuteronomy 8,1) “Therefore shall ye keep all the commandments which I command you this day, that ye may be strong, and go in and possess the land, whither ye go to possess it” (Deuteronomy 11, 8). That is, the people of Israel do not own the land automatically, unless they live according to the commandments given to them. When I see the way we behave towards the Palestinians (and also towards our own Jewish people) I feel that goes against the spirit of God’s commandments, and I’m filled with shame.
B.I believe that in order to uphold the “Greater Israel”, Israel perpetuates injustices towards the Palestinians, and therefore it is unacceptable to me to continue the occupation of another people,
And so, there is no choice but to make peace with Palestinians even at the heavy price of territorial compromises.
What does an Israeli leader who’s concerned with the continuation of the existence of the State of Israel, the world’s only Jewish state, need to do today?
Agree on territorial compromises with the Palestinians, support the inauguration of a Palestinian state not only de jure (after the UN’s recognition in November 29th 2012) but also de facto, to reach compromise about east Jerusalem, and to compensate the Palestinian refugees that were expelled from their lands during the wars with Israel.
I believe that through the work of the Arik Institute, we can help change the public opinion on both sides which should result in strengthening the peace camp, and therefore assist our leaders to turn declarations into actions that will put an end to the Palestinian – Israeli conflict.