|Another Missed Opportunity for Peace|
Fifty-three years ago, Palestinians missed an historic opportunity when the Arab world rejected the UN Partition Plan, which would have created an independent Palestinian Arab state adjacent to Israel. The Arab states chose war instead.
At Camp David last month, Chairman Arafat balked at another opportunity to secure a better future for the Palestinians and formally end their bitter conflict with Israel.
The Palestinians must not let the opportunity for peace slip away. While a bold Israeli leader came ready to make sweeping and painful compromises, and a determined U.S. President made every effort to facilitate solutions, Chairman Arafat failed to seize the chance for peace.
Now, Mr. Arafat is busily promoting a dangerous idea, a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood, that would scuttle negotiated peace with Israel. He is seeking to rally worldwide support for unacceptable, unworkable demands.
Instead of joining Israelis in grappling with the most difficult issues that stand in the way of peace, and similarly preparing Palestinians for achievable compromise, Palestinian leaders mouth old slogans and sustain old hatreds. Palestinian Authority summer camps train teenagers for terrorism against Israel. Schoolbooks and the popular media promote contempt for Israel and Jews.
Over the decades, Israel has taken tangible risks to achieve secure peace with all its neighbors. In return for land captured in the defensive 1967 war, the Jewish state has made simple and entirely reasonable requests: normal relations, a permanent end to the conflict, internationally recognized borders, security guarantees. On those terms, Egypt's Anwar Sadat and Jordan's King Hussein seized opportunities for peace and signed full treaties with Israel.
For the last seven years, in their quest for peace, Israeli governments have made far-reaching compromises. The proposals made by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak at Camp David would have gone still further, relinquishing — to hitherto unfriendly forces — vast and contiguous tracts of land near Israel’s major cities.
Palestinian leaders today are at a crossroads. They can abide by previously signed commitments to forswear violence and unilateral acts, grasp Israel’s outstretched hand, and begin building true peace — a culture of peace — between neighbors.
Or they can perpetuate conflict.
The choice is clear. The opportunity for peace is here.
For all in the Middle East, the Palestinians must not let that opportunity slip away again.
The American Jewish Committee
David A. Harris, Executive Director
Bruce M. Ramer, President