Sunday, February 02, 2014

My Response to Paula R. Stern's Angry Open Letter to John Kerry

An open letter by blogger Paula R. Stern to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry echoes much of the right wing commentary I've seen coming out of both Israel and the diaspora Jewish community. It also echoes the really unfortunate comments by Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon who told Kerry to "leave us alone."

Stern writes, in part:
"You won’t fail in your goal of ramming peace down our throats because of this, however. You will fail because, amazingly enough, you don’t even understand Israel. We are the easiest to get, the easiest, honestly. All you have to do is listen and see – but even that is beyond you.


For a long time now, the Arabs have fooled you. They’ll speak to you of peace over the coffee they serve you and then when you leave the room, they slap each other on the backs and laugh – another successful day at making the US look stupid."

Secretary Kerry did not threaten Israel. He simply relayed the dangerous trends he sees building around the world. BTW, the Palestinians want to haul him before the ICC for supposedly threatening Mahmoud Abbas, something else he did not do. Let me just say this is the strongest terms: I disagree with this letter.

Secretary Kerry is no simpleton. He has not been fooled. He may be on mission impossible but he is anything but stupid or naive. Predicting a failure that seems likely doesn’t mean that trying is not worthwhile. It is the correct and moral thing to do. It’s what separates Israelis and Jews from the Palestinian Arabs: we value life and we strive for peace.

Of course, I could make equally negative comments about Naftali Bennet, whom Stern praises. Bennet fails to understand that Israel cannot possibly rule over millions of hostile Arabs and survive as a democratic Jewish state. Right wing Israelis also live for an impossible dream. In that sense they are just like the Palestinians Stern is so critical of.

When my father fought for Israel’s independence in 1948-49 he fought for a state that, for the next 18 years, did not include Judea and Samaria and yet it was still a Jewish State in Israel. In 1967, when other Israelis celebrated, his first words on hearing of the great victory were, “Occupation. Bad business.” I think history has proven him right.

Stern knows her history. Indeed, she has seen it first hand, including the horrors of terror perpetrated by Palestinian Arabs on innocent Israelis. Sadly, possibly due to her very real pain and justified anger, she draws the wrong conclusions from that history. A peace agreement, should it ever come (which I seriously doubt) does not mean a terrorist state or greater threat. Gaza became a threat because it was a withdrawal without any peace agreement, and without basic steps to insure Israel’s security, such as controlling the border with Egypt. Prime Minister Netanyahu has made clear that he won’t make those mistakes again.

Peace with Egypt, on the other hand, has held for nearly 35 years. It held through two tumultuous changes of government and two years of Islamist rule by Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. How many Israeli Jewish lives have been saved by making peace and by giving up Sinai?

Instead of anger at John Kerry we should be thanking him for allowing us to demonstrate once again that Israel is the one side in the conflict that always strives for peace. Yes, he may fail and yes, if he does, it will be because the Palestinian leadership is not ready for peace. I give him credit for trying, and credit for trying to bring about what, for most Israelis, is the great hope and dream: peace and security.


SnoopyTheGoon said...

" Yes, he may fail and yes, if he does, it will be because the Palestinian leadership is not ready for peace."

Yes, but you know where will the fingers be pointed...

And Ayalon, while mouthing off in a wrong place at a wrong time, was somewhat right in one thing at least: the moment IDF leaves the West Bank, there is a good chance that the PLO/Fatah reign will end, to be swiftly replaced by Hamas.

But of course, it was not his place to heat up the situation as he did.

Caitlyn Martin said...

I don't agree with most of what you wrote. Hamas can be prevented from taking over the West Bank. I don't believe the IDF will simply walk away. There will be other mechanisms in place to prop up Abbas before that happens.

I don't think Ayalon was right at all.

As far as finger pointing goes, so long as Secretary Kerry does what President Clinton does, placing the blame squarely where it belongs, North American support for Israel will remain strong. Those who blame Israel automatically and reflexively will always find reasons to hate Israel no matter what happens.

Anonymous said...

Peace with Egypt has only held 25 yrs because the US paid millions of dollars to Egypt - and the only way Hamas can ever be prevented from talking the West Bank is if they are decimated and Palestinians refuse to allow Hamas to ever regain any kind of soft power.

Anonymous said...

Stern is a know it all and a big mouth

Anonymous said...

Paula Stern loves to hear herself talk or see her words in print- BORING and to as my kid says, EMO

Caitlyn Martin said...

I disagree with the first anonymous commnet: The piece with Egypt has held for 35 years (not just 25) because it's in the interest of the Egyptian military, which has always controlled that country, to keep the peace. Even when aid to the Sisi government was suspended by the U.S. the peace held. U.S. aid is a factor, but it's not the only factor, and it's not even the main factor.

Hamas can be prevented from taking power in the West Bank indefinitely without the sort of gross military action you describe. Thankfully, you are not advising the Israeli government. I notice you don't even have the courage to sign your name to your post.

A Soldier's Mother said...

I don't have much to respond to here - first time I came across this post and this blog. My only comment is that too often people think because they lived in Israel for 5 minutes (or their parents did), that they understand Israel.

We don't need John Kerry to tell us what the Arabs are threatening and it isn't his job to speak for the Arabs - at least not according to his official job description.

You'll note, I assume that we didn't have peace in 1966 without what you call the occupation and we didn't have peace in 1968. The only difference is that now we have a better buffer - ignoring, of course, any legitimate claims we have to the areas in question.

And if you don't think Ayalon was right that Hamas is just waiting to step into the West Bank as they did in Gaza, you REALLY don't understand the situation here AT ALL. I live in Maale Adumim - a three minute drive from my city...even the Arab neighborhood of Azariya. Two blocks into that area, there's a circle - all the Arabs (and Jews) know that beyond that circle is "Hamas territory".

As an American, feel free to speak of what is good in America. You like John Kerry - you can have him. But when he talks about my country, I have a right to my opinion. Am I angry? Why shouldn't I be? Did he threaten? Come on, be honest - you may agree with him on what he wants to surrender, but be realistic enough to understand that a man in his position is more than just a "reporter" - and it was most definitely and clearly a warning AND a threat.

It seems like others agree, based on the comments. And while you write about Kerry and Clinton (? did you mean Obama?) putting the blame where it belongs, you'll note they rarely do.