Israeli ambassador responds to ‘Arab-Israeli conflict in 10 points’

 

Sir, – As someone who worked closely with the late Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin during the early days of the Oslo peace process, I can scarcely recognise the argument put forth by Ben Ehrenreich “The Arab-Israeli conflict in 10 points” (August 16th).

Ben Ehrenreich blithely ignores the deep historic connection of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel going back 3,000 years. While noting the 700,000 Muslim Arabs who fled the fighting in 1948, he says nothing about the expulsion of nearly a million Jews at the same time from Arab countries and that whereas Israel absorbed Jewish refugees and gave them equal rights, Arab countries kept Palestinian refugees in camps to be used as political fodder against Israel.

In reference to the 1967 Six-Day War, Ben Ehrenreich does not clarify that UN Security Council resolution 242 which called for the withdrawal of territories acquired by Israel also required the Arab states to recognise Israel’s right to exist. They refused, that is until the signing of the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt in 1979.

It is wrong to say the security barrier built along the West Bank border was designed to seize Palestinian land. The barrier was a response to the murder of 1,100 Israeli civilians by terrorists who easily crossed from the West Bank into Israel during the Second Intifada. The purpose of the barrier is entirely to protect the lives of Israeli civilians, and the Supreme Court, which adjudicates in territorial disputes regarding the barrier, sometimes in fact decides against the Israeli government.

Nor is it fair to call the peace process in the 1990s “the peace that wasn’t”. Israel, under Mr Rabin and his successors such as Ariel Sharon, was desperate to find a partner for peace on the Palestinian side. Time and again Israel made concessions on land, giving up parts of the West Bank and in 2005 the whole of Gaza, but every concession made by Israel resulted only in more terrorism from the other side. Israel still hopes to find a partner for peace so that there can be a final agreement based on bilateral negotiations resulting in two states for two peoples, the State of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people and a Palestinian state for the Palestinian people.

Ben Ehrenreich says Gaza is undergoing a “siege”. Apart from the fact that Israel directly supplies Gaza with civilian goods, he barely mentions that Gaza has been controlled by Hamas since 2007, which has fired about 15,000 rockets into Israel over the years. These are hardly the “sporadic” attacks that he mentions, and the only reason relatively few Israeli civilians have been killed is because about a million Israelis live with bomb shelters and the defence system Iron Dome is usually successful in defending Israeli communities. Whereas in wartime Hamas uses its own civilians as human shields and tries to kill Israeli civilians, Israel does its utmost to protect its own civilians and does not directly target civilians on the other side. Peace can only come with mutual compromise, and outsiders fuelling the propaganda war against Israel are not helping. – Yours, etc,

ZE’EV BOKER,

Ambassador of Israel,

Ballsbridge, Dublin 4.