We launched our “Call to Reason“ in May 2010 because we were aware of the urgency, for Israel to survive as a democratic State with a Jewish majority, to create a sovereign and viable Palestinian State alongside its borders. Recently we hoped that the negotiations started in July 2013 under the auspices of the United States , with John Kerry’s personal involvement, would allow at last the emergence of a solution the parameters of which all persons involved for years in these negotiations know pefectly well.
A new upsurge of violence has quickly succeeded to the failure of these negotiations. As always in the Middle East, the lack of political initiatives plays into the hands of extremists on all sides. Last summer’s war may have briefly weakened Hamas but solved nothing. The number of Palestinian casualties and the extensive destruction have further deteriorated Israel’s international image. The continuing construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem has increased the frustration and the anger of the Arab population. New attacks have resumed soon after. Given this worsening situation, mutual accusations have increased on both sides, showing the total distrust between the two parties.
Two years ago, we hoped to see the non-state observer status accorded to Palestine by the UN as the prelude to the resumption of direct negotiations which alone will allow to deal with the contentious issues which must be resolved for the establishment of a Palestinian State. These negotiations took place, but the result was inconclusive.
As Jewish European citizens, staunchly committed to Israel’s future and security, we cannot anymore stand idly in the face of this slow deterioration of the situation and of the announced collapse which would put an end to the zionist project. We thus decided to support the action taken by Palestinians to gain the recognition of their State. Such a change of Palestine’s status, if it is supported by countries having already proved their commitment to Israel and their ties of friendship with it, will hopefully send a shockwave in the region and restore a real hope to both populations. To be sure, such a recognition will be only a first step towards the creation of the Palestinian State. This phase will necessarily be followed by negotiations with Israelis in order to define the future characteristics of this State.
Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, has confirmed several times the commitment to the Two-State Solution taken during his famous speech at Bar-Ilan. At the end of last summer’s war, after commending President Mahmoud Abbas for his moderation and his condemnation of Hamas’ bombings of the Israeli territory, he committed himself to offer a new political horizon to Palestinians. It is now time to do it, in Israel’s own interest.
We must remind those who criticize the unilateral aspect of such a Palestinian approach that since 1967, Israel has imposed unilateral policies by developing settlements in the West Bank. Even the withdrawal from the Gaza strip in 2005, which could have been the prelude to the creation of the Palestinian State, was not negotiated with the Palestinian Authority. Such a policy has in fact reinforced the position of Palestinian extremists—firstly Hamas, which lives on this conflict.
We must remind those who criticize the international community, accusing it to mobilize itself only “on Israel’s back“, abandoning to their fate thousands of civil casualties of deadlier conflicts in the world, that the intervention of the same international community has enabled to put an end to the conflicts in the Balkans. To say the truth, international crises have been increasing these last years, and it is getting more and more difficult to intervene and interfere. But the ongoing crises in the Middle-East provide Israel opportunities of strategic alliances—especially with Muslim countries committed to the fight against islamist movements—which would strengthen its international position.
We must remind those who cite Palestinian attacks —such as the slaughter in a Jerusalem synagogue— to blame the initiatives aimed at recognizing Palestine, Yitzhak Rabin’s famous quote: “We must fight terrorism as if there is no peace process and pursue peace as if there is no terrorism.“
Only a swift return to a political dialogue, with a strong commitment of the international community, will enable to oppose the reemergence of fundamentalism which could set the whole area ablaze. Even within the Israeli intellectual-political-security establishment, voices rise today to call for a recognition of Palestine. It is time for such a call to be resumed by all of Israel’s friends in Europe.
David Calef, David Chemla, Massia Kaneman-Pougatch, Gérard Unger and Willy Wolsztajn, leaders of JCall Europe