A letter to the president 

Dear President Obama,

I'm an Israeli peace activist and I really need your help.  I've been working for over 20 years to make my country — Israel — a safe place for my children, and now is the first time I think I really have a chance to get there.  Because you're in the White House.

I know we're on the same page: Divide the land (more or less on the 1948 border) so that we end up with two sovereign states — Israel and Palestine — where both can live in peace and security. Divide Jerusalem so that Arab neighborhoods become the Palestinian capital and Jewish neighborhoods remain the Israeli capital — and ensure access to the holy sites for people of all religions. And apply the obvious and practical solutions to the other outstanding issues — water (a rational and equitable distribution), refugees (resettlement and reparations), and arms (control and security for both sides).

I'm not the only one in the Middle East who thinks this way: For a decade, polls have consistently shown that a majority of Israelis support a two-state solution as part of an overall peace agreement. So do public opinion polls of Palestinians. And most would go along with any arrangements that could be worked out between the sides because, well, we've all lost enough loved ones to the conflict.

One of the key problems seems to be that most politicians have given in to the demands of the extremist Israeli settlers in the Occupied Territories — people who prefer to live by the sword on someone else's land than forge a compromise that both sides can live with.

So many U.S. presidents — following the lead of Israeli prime ministers — turned a blind eye to the expansion of these colonies, expansion that led to deeper entrenchment of the occupation and greater Palestinian bitterness and rage. What a recipe for bloodshed! One cup occupation plus one cup violent resistance — and the bloodshed will go on for generations, as it has. 

It was a relief, Mr. President, to hear your clear statements in Cairo: “The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements …It is time for these settlements to stop.”

And then Prime Minister Netanyahu affirmed his own acceptance of a two-state solution, meaning that the Israeli settlers would ultimately have to return to Israel, making room for the sovereign state of Palestine. What else could “a two-state solution” mean?

But somehow the need to “freeze” settlement construction — which Israel promised to do in previous agreements and our prime minister has been trying to sell to his coalition partners — has now “thawed,” as our government approved the construction of 455 more homes in the Occupied Territories. What is it about “It is time for these settlements to stop” that Netanyahu did not understand?

Therefore, Mr. President, I came to visit Little Rock to talk with some of the citizens there and, through them, to appeal to you to use your good offices to be a true friend to Israel by telling Netanyahu the truth: Occupation is not compatible with peace. Settlements are not compatible with a two-state solution.

The United States has the power to get it done: Your military aid — some $4 billion dollars a year — gives you the right and obligation to demand that Israel stop building the settlements and start withdrawing the settlers. Without U.S. financial aid, Israel would not have the wherewithal to keep building and protecting the settlements (at the expense of our schools and hospitals). Without U.S. backing in international arenas, Israel would be alone in pursuing its policies of occupation.

Mr. President, you can write a historic chapter of peace in the Middle East, if only you don't back down from your demand that both sides engage in good-faith negotiations. Don't let the extremists continue to set the agenda.

This occupation, like every other in history, will ultimately come to an end. I want that to happen before my two beautiful little grandchildren are also called up for duty.


Gila Svirsky of Jerusalem is chair of B'Tselem, Israel's foremost human rights organization in the Occupied Territories. She spoke in Little Rock from Sept. 18-24 at the invitation of the Arkansas chapter of Women's Action for New Directions. Ernest Dumas is on vacation.




Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • Arkansas condones child abuse?

    If Harrises and Duggars go unpunished, yes.
    • Jun 4, 2015
  • Must address racial inequities

    We mourn for the families of the dead at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. As we grieve it's time to rekindle a conversation about race in America and press for the changes that the Emanuel congregation championed for centuries — changes that also made it a target.
    • Jun 25, 2015
  • Racism is systemic

    In a speech on Sunday at Bethel A.M.E. Church, Gov. Asa Hutchinson played directly into the narrative of respectability politics, where white people tell people of color how they should respond to a situation and condemn responses from others in the community experiencing anger, rage and other expressions of grief.
    • Jun 25, 2015

Most Shared

Latest in Guest Writer

  • Don't blame trigger warnings

    "Trigger warnings" have recently resurfaced in the news because of a letter from a University of Chicago dean of students that warned incoming freshmen to not expect advance notice of potentially upsetting material in the classroom
    • Sep 22, 2016
  • Schlafly's influence

    Phyllis Schlafly, mother, attorney and longtime antifeminist, died recently. What Schlafly promoted was not novel or new. Men had been saying that men and women were not equal for years. However, anti-feminism, anti-women language had much more power coming from a woman who professed to be looking out for the good of all women and families.
    • Sep 15, 2016
  • Global health is local health

    First with the 2014 Ebola outbreak and now with the Zika virus, Americans are becoming reacquainted with the fear of infectious disease. But although Ebola and Zika are both serious public health threats, they pale in comparison to three other diseases in terms of inflicting suffering and loss of life around the world — tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and malaria.
    • Sep 15, 2016
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge opens veterinary clinic

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge opens veterinary clinic

Eureka Springs non-profit will provide on-site veterinary care to its more than 60 exotic and native large animals.

Event Calendar

« »


2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31  

Most Viewed

  • Arkansas 2016: the microclimate election

    In the lead-up to the past four Arkansas election cycles, the forecast has been a fairly simple one: strong winds blowing in the GOP direction.
  • The big loser

    So now the big crybaby says he's losing because his opponent is crooked and the referees are blind.
  • Trumped in Arkansas

    After two solid debates and the release of a video and corroborating testimony that further confirmed the misogyny of Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton is favored to win the presidential election Nov. 8

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Trumped in Arkansas

    • You lump the convict Jim Guy Tucker in with men like Clinton, Fulbright, Rockefeller, Bumpers…

    • on October 20, 2016
  • Re: The big loser

    • I hope you're right, but it only takes one nut with a gun and a…

    • on October 20, 2016
  • Re: The big loser

    • Wonder what the blind follower Asa and his motley crue of numbskull republican non-legislators thought…

    • on October 20, 2016

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation