Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A ray of hope for peace in the Middle East

On Thursday, March 26, 2009, I read in the New York Times a column titled, “The Fierce Urgency of Peace”, by Mr. Roger Cohen. It was well written, gripping, and highly readable. I was quite impressed. I thought it was quite courageous of him to have written that column, knowing as he does what could happen if he provokes the ire of the Jewish Lobby (AIPAC). We know how Charles Freeman was forced to withdraw only 18 days ago, on March 11, as Chairman of the National Intelligence Council; the position was offered to him by Denis Blair, the Director of National Intelligence. AIPAC did not like Charles Freeman, thought he was anti-Israel, and so started a vile campaign against him, vilifying him.

In this column Mr. Cohen informed the readers that 10 prominent Americans had written a letter to President Obama urging him to have a more balanced policy regarding the Palestinians and the Hamas, and to discard George Bush’s policy based on the belief that “Israel can do no wrong”. The ten prominent Americans who signed the letter were: Paul Volcker, former national security advisers Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski, former Senator Chuck Hagel, former World Bank President James Wolfensohn, former U.S. Trade Representative Carla Hills, former Congressman Lee Hamilton and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Thomas Pickering.

I was so impressed with the column that I was inspired to submit a comment to the New York Times. Of course, the NYT refused to publish it. NYT is not pleased when a reader criticizes Israel too severely. Fortunately for me, I have this Blog where I can publish my comments without worrying about an editor of the NYT censoring it. Here is the comment that I sent them :

For the first time in over ten years, I saw a few rays of hope regarding peace in the Middle East when I read this column. Reading this column really cheered me up.

I disagree with you only on a minor issue: To meet with the ten signatories of the letter, President Obama need not wait until a new cabinet in Israel takes over. Instead, he should meet with them as soon as possible, say, within the next few days, because time is of the essence. With more settlements appearing in the West Bank with the passage of time, the entire area now looks like a gigantic slice of Swiss cheese with large areas fenced and carved out of Palestinians' ancestral land to create illegal settlements for Israeli settlers. The chance to implement the two-state solution is drastically reduced with the creation and establishment of each new settlement.

Until now Israel's strategy has been to talk endlessly about their desire for peace, while building more residences in haste in the West Bank to transform the landscape. At this rate, very soon, the two-state solution will vanish and, in its place the one-state solution will take root. Is this what Israel is striving for?

Judging from what President Obama has said and done so far regarding the plight of the Palestinians, I did not have much hope of witnessing a Middle East blessed with peace. Secretary of State Clinton has described the creation of new settlements in the West Bank as "not helpful", and in violation of the road map for peace. She could have expressed her unhappiness using much stronger words. It's quite likely that she used those words deliberately, and only after consulting with President Obama.

Too many people died in Gaza during the war. The killing of people and the destruction of residences and infra-structure must stop. President Obama must object to the bulldozing of Israeli Arabs' houses in East Jerusalem. Israel has bulldozed two houses, and it has announced that 80 more houses will be destroyed to make room for a new settlement near East Jerusalem. President Obama must put a stop to this. He must also adopt a more balanced policy towards the Palestinians, and take the role of a genuine arbiter for peace, and act now to bring peace to the entire Middle East.

— Yesh Prabhu, Plainsboro, NJ

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