Israel is very sensitive to the so-called BDS movement. Which urges boycotting, divestiture and sanctions of Israel. Over its policies toward the Palestinians. Much of the BDS effort is taking place on campus. So it comes as a surprise that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu targets one such effort by students in the UK for special condemnation.
By EREL N. MARGALIT
Candidate, Labor Party chairman
Dear Mr. President:
We haven’t had the pleasure of meeting in person, but I am a fellow Columbia University alumnus (Ph.D. in philosophy), and I run one of Israel’s leading venture capital firms (JVP).
Last month, I declared my candidacy for chairman of the Labor Party. While the election isn’t until September, I am galvanizing a national coalition of activists and everyday people to restore the Labor Party to the greatness it enjoyed under Ben Gurion, Golda and Rabin, to prevent Israel from being driven into further isolation by Netanyahu and Lieberman’s right wing government.
Netanyahu’s five-day whirlwind U.S. trip has left everyone’s head spinning and is thankfully coming to an end. I am writing to give a few simple yet powerful suggestions that you might consider in order to capture the hearts and minds of the Israeli people. I hope to help you build the necessary goodwill with Israelis to make the peace process come to fruition.
You are correct that the status quo is unsustainable and that new thinking is needed to bring about necessary change. However, lecturing you — the president of the world’s most powerful nation and Israel’s biggest ally — as Bibi did is frankly an embarrassment and reflects both his communications and policy shortcomings. (Don’t take it too personally; he pulled the same trick with former President Clinton.)
In the wake of his trip, I would like to propose a five-step plan to quickly get things on track!
1. Fast Forward an Interim Agreement With the Palestinians:
Mr. president, the threat of the Palestinians, now including Hamas, unilaterally declaring a state at the UN makes any agreement difficult to envision. Nevertheless, you can play this to your advantage. The U.S. and Israel can take the initiative and call for the creation of the Palestinian state as early as September. In the interim, the Palestinians will be able to exercise their governing rights on their side of the security fence, built during the time of the Second Intifada, which have successfully kept out suicide bombers. (Unfortunately many interpreted your remarks as conveying that Israel must return to the 1967 borders, which is of course not acceptable, and did not consider your carefully worded language on mutually agreed upon land swaps. Nevertheless, the steps above can let you initiate an ambitious, workable process).
2. Insist on Mutual Regional Recognition:
You gave a comprehensive vision for the Middle East … and hopefully the world is seeing the creation of democracy during this Arab Spring. But as you indicated, establishing democracy is a long process. For now, you can and must use your will and influence to insist that the agreement between Palestinians and Israelis must also include the Sunni moderate Arab states in the region — Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Iraq, Kuwait, etc. — as they join Egypt and Jordan in recognizing Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state and in establishing joint embassies, economic ties, and free travel between countries.
3. Close the Deal With A Modern Day Marshall Plan (The Obama Plan for the Middle East):
We know that cash is tight, but a long-term investment by the international community in building peace is an investment worth making. Think of it as your Marshall Plan for the Palestinians, economically disadvantaged Arab countries and Israel. In this plan, you can assist the Palestinian refugees to be settled in Arab countries as well as those who will settle in the newly formed Palestinian state. We further ask that you clearly state that the Palestinian right of return would not apply to Israel as it would demographically undermine the identity of our Jewish state. Finally, and most importantly, this plan needs to include an economic regional pact and free trade agreements that Israel would enter into with Palestine and the Arab states, along with the EU, China and India. Let us demonstrate to the people of the region not only what they have to give up in the process but also what they have to gain!
4. Understand the Psyche of the Jewish Nation
There is an old adage in the Jewish world: “Just because we’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not trying to kill us.” Although small in number, we are a great and ancient people. Throughout history, we have needed to defend ourselves from extinction, persevering through persecution from the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Romans, the expulsion from Spain in 1492 and, most terrible of all, the Holocaust. If we are to move forward, making great sacrifices and taking another leap of faith, we need the United States and the world to stand with us.
5. Come to Jerusalem
Mr. President, we know you have a lot on your plate, but you are due for another visit to Israel. Jerusalem brings all the faiths of the world together — and the president of the United States needs to come here and speak directly to the Israeli and Palestinian peoples so that healing and normalcy can replace strife and uncertainty. Help us convey to the Palestinians that their concept of “Nakba” should not lead to revenge and war but should be about rebuilding, redirecting, recharging and rebooting relations. Moreover, you must express that the city of Jerusalem will no longer be a city of tension and insurmountable obstacles but will be a capital of creativity, spirituality and peace.
For peace to happen, Israelis need to clearly say to our Palestinian brothers that we recognize their suffering. In building our own state, we were blind to the suffering of others as we were saving our own brothers from extinction. Palestinians must clearly and finally renounce violence and all forms of terrorism in recognizing that the two state solution is the only solution.
Time and again, leaders are faced with crucial and difficult decisions. Mr. President, now is one of those times. We, as part of a new generation of leaders, must project our vision for how the nations of this region can be rebuilt. Only then can the Fertile Crescent — the cradle of civilization — return to its roots as a spiritual, economic and political center of the world.
With your help, we can move forward to achieving that goal.
Erel N. Margalit
Erel N. Margalit is a leading venture capitalist and social entrepreneur in Israel and Labor Party chairman candidate. He blogs at http://erelmargalit.wordpress.com. This article originally appeared in the Huffington Post.
Candidate, Labor Party Chairman