1,500 officers urge Netanyahu to honor peace commitments

JERUSALEM (AP) — More than 1,500 reserve army officers and soldiers urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday to choose peace with the Palestinians over settlements in the West Bank.
“A government that prefers maintaining settlements … will arouse doubts in our hearts about the justice of our course,” the reservists said in a full-page advertisement published in the Yediot Ahronot newspaper.
Among the 1,554 signatories were a former chief of the general staff, eleven major-generals and more than 200 officers with the rank of lieutenant-colonel or higher.
The prime minister’s office said it had not received a copy of the letter and had no immediate response.
“The Palestinian areas are like a powder-keg,” said Naftali Raz, a former sergeant in the paratroops who helped organize the campaign.
“All the experts agree that if the government goes on expanding settlements another intefadeh (Palestinian uprising) will break out, but this time it will be with firearms, not stones. It will be war.”
Exactly 20 years ago, a smaller group of reservists submitted a letter, with almost identical wording, urging then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin not to miss the chance for peace presented by the visit of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to Jerusalem.
Sadat was demanding the return of all territory Israel had captured from Egypt in the 1967 war as the price for peace. The officers were worried that the peace negotiations might collapse because Begin maintained he had to retain part of the Sinai peninsula to give Israel’s defenses “strategic depth.”
Netanyahu has made similar claims about why Israel needs to retain the majority of the West Bank.
Raz signed the original letter.