Despite actions, Israel is committed to peace

Israel should be saved from “friends” like Scott Laderman. Laderman (“Friends of Israel must demand withdrawal,” April 16) argues that only after Israel has pulled out of the Palestinian cities and towns it has “terrorized,” and ended for all time “its illegal and immoral occupation” can Israel hope for security.

This argument fails for several reasons. First, it assumes the sole problem is Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. This assumption is simply wrong. From the birth of the State of Israel in 1948 until the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel did not occupy any of the West Bank. Nevertheless, the Jewish State was under constant terror attacks from its Arab neighbors.

What accounted for this belligerency? It couldn’t have been attributable to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, because there was no such occupation at the time. Indeed, Jews were not even allowed to travel into the Old City in East Jerusalem to pray at the Western Wall between 1948 and 1967.

The answer, as Laderman must acknowledge, is the Arab world’s refusal then (and, with a few exceptions, its refusal now) to recognize Israel’s right to exist in its ancestral homeland. This homeland was established in 1948 in full compliance with international law and U.N. mandate on territory that constitutes less than 1 percent of the entire landmass of the Middle East.

Laderman, and many who espouse similar sentiments, feel that if only Israel were to comply with U.N. Resolution 242 and withdraw to within the 1967 border, peace would be at hand. The situation in Lebanon right now clearly shows this argument to be wrong.

Israel sent troops to Lebanon in the 1980s to protect its northern border from constant katusha shelling – first, by the PLO, and then by Hezbollah, who were using south Lebanon to attack Israel. After two decades of international pressure, Israel withdrew and agreed to comply with U.N. resolutions. To make sure the withdrawal was in full compliance with U.N. resolutions, Israel asked the United Nations to draw the line demarcating the Israeli-Lebanese border.

After the U.N. drew the line, Israel withdrew behind it. Has peace prevailed? According to Laderman’s analysis, Israel should have been allowed to live in peace on its northern border because it had fully complied with U.N. resolutions. Yet there is no peace on the northern border. Hezbollah continues to use the land in south Lebanon to fire rockets at northern Israel. Perhaps Laderman should look to the example of south Lebanon to see the manner in which Israel is rewarded for compliance with U.N. resolutions.

Laderman also refers to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank as “illegal.” Again, he’s simply wrong. Israel occupied the West Bank in the aftermath of the Six-Day War after it defeated the Arab armies that had amassed on its borders with the intent to destroy it.

Following the Six-Day War, the United Nations passed Resolution 242, which calls upon Israel to withdraw “from territories occupied in the recent conflict” (and by the way, an honest look at the history of this resolution clearly indicates the drafters could have, but did not, use the phrase “all the territories”). The resolution also, most significantly, called upon all of the Arab parties in the region to recognize Israel’s right to exist as part of a comprehensive peace agreement.

Hence, Resolution 242, far from making Israel’s occupation of the West Bank illegal, actually legitimizes Israel’s presence in the West Bank until a comprehensive peace agreement has been signed.

Finally, Laderman states Israel’s actions in the West Bank are “immoral.” If exercising one’s right to self-defense and preservation is immoral, then I suppose Israel is immoral. As Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill. stated the other day in response to a question about Israel’s current policy: “What would you have Sharon do (about the recent spate of suicide bombings), write a letter to the editor?”

Unless Laderman believes Jewish blood has no value, then clearly Israel is morally justified in protecting its citizens from suicide bombings by rooting out the terrorist infrastructures in the West Bank – just as the United States is justified in going after the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Moreover, by sending in its ground troops and exposing them to danger – instead of carpet bombing the West Bank like the Allied Forces did in Dresden or the Russians recently did in Grozny – the Israelis have demonstrated their commitment to limiting civilian casualties.

The only way out of this conflict is for the Palestinians and the Arab world to renounce suicide bombings as a legitimate means of expressing self determination, and to select responsible leaders committed to working with Israel towards a genuine and lasting peace.

Indeed, an honest look at history shows Israel has always been willing to make territorial concessions and work toward peace when the party on the other side was a King Hussein or a President Anwar Sadat. It is time for the Palestinians and the Arab world to put forward such leaders.

 

Arnie Frishman is associate general counsel at the Office of the General Counsel. Send comments to
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