January 28, 2003

Letter to the Editor

To the Editor:

In the last two and a half years, college campuses have become hotbeds for political activism related to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Representatives and supporters of Israel throughout North America have noticed that anti-Israel activists have initiated a new campaign at the beginning of each school year featuring a new "buzz word" around which to promote their activities and enhance support for their cause. The new spin this semester centers on an accusation of a secret master "transfer" plan by Israel. While the originators of such fiction are aware of its falsehood, supporters who genuinely believe in it often join them.

In his letter to the Maroon on January 17, Professor John Mearsheimer expresses alarm about this transfer cabal and cites an article based on Jordanian sources, published in the Israeli daily Ha'aretz on November 28, 2002 as a basis for his concern. He then challenges me to support my statement in a previous Maroon article that "the leaders of the Israeli government have repeatedly declared they have absolutely no intention of transferring Palestinians from the disputed territories." I am happy to oblige and mention below only a few of the many times that Prime Minister Sharon has expressed his wish to live in peace with the Palestinians.

In Sharon's inauguration speech on July 3, 2001 he declared: "The future can and must be different. Both our peoples are destined to live together side by side, on this small piece of land." In a speech at the Herziliya Conference on December 4, 2002 the Prime Minister declared, "Israel will not re-control territories from which it withdrew as a result of political agreements". The New York Times reports on December 5, 2002: "Sharon Tentatively Backs Plan for Palestinian State." The paper concludes that "Mr. Sharon's remarks were his most direct statement on the conditions that he would accept as part of a permanent settlement of the Palestinian conflict. He endorsed creating a homeland for the estimated three million Palestinians."

Finally, on December 29, 2002, only a month after the appearance of the Ha'aretz article upon which Mearsheimer's argument relies, the Israeli daily published an article that directly contradicts his letter's citation. In a piece entitled "Less fear of transfer, more hatred of the U.S.," veteran Palestinian Affairs correspondent Danny Rubenstein reported, "The Palestinians no longer fear the Sharon government will exploit an American invasion of Iraq to conduct a population transfer." Later he states that, "Jordanian Prime Minister Ali Abu Ragheb recently announced that Israel and Jordan have reached an agreement preventing any expulsion of Palestinians."

In Israel, as in the United States, one is presumed innocent until proven guilty. It is unfortunate that for some, this does not seem to be the case when Israel is involved. Amazingly, when it comes to Israel they are perfectly willing to forgo any semblance of academic or ethical standards of fairness by pronouncing Israel guilty based only on unsubstantiated allegations regarding possible future intentions.

If one truly is interested in assessing the Israeli public's views regarding any issue and the intentions of the future government of Israel, one need not delve into dark conspiracy theories. All one has to do is follow the upcoming elections in the Middle East's only democracy. When the Labor Party pulled out of the unity government, Sharon could have formed a majority coalition by agreeing to join forces with parties calling for tougher policies toward the Palestinians. Instead, he chose to call for new elections. The elections on January 28 will be the only poll that matters, and it is already clear that parties promoting peaceful coexistence will receive a substantial share of the vote.

As proven in the past, when leaders of courage such as President Sadat of Egypt and King Hussein of Jordan extended their hands to Israel and proved to be true partners for peace, Israeli leaders responded and agreements were achieved. When the Palestinian people choose leadership which is not, in the words of President Bush, "compromised by terror," negotiations can resume toward a political solution that may ultimately result in two peoples, coexisting in peace and security side by side.

The arrival at real peace between Israel and the Palestinians can only happen when terror stops and Israeli civilians are no longer murdered in restaurants, discos, on school buses, and at Passover Seders. Those crimes against humanity that have been perpetrated on a daily basis for the last two and a half years, would be a far better focus for those interested in promoting peace and justice than criticizing Israel for a hypothetical policy that will never see the light of day.

David Roet

Deputy Consul General

Consulate General of Israel to the Midwest