Closing gaps in the Mideast peace process

January 11, 2012

In his Jan. 8 Outlook piece, “How to break a Middle East stalemate,” longtime Middle East mediator Dennis Ross presented yet another idea for easing tensions in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that might lead to a two-state solution. Mr. Ross and others have put forth creative and potentially effective ideas to bring about peace. But these ideas never work, so those trying to resolve the conflict keep coming up with new ones.

I believe the psychological gaps to which Mr. Ross referred are the reason so many proposed solutions have failed, and I offer an approach that could close those gaps. It involves no commitments to action but rather three simple statements that both sides would endorse publicly at the same moment.

They are, in this order:

1. The (Palestinian) (Israeli) people acknowledge the painful history of the (Israeli) (Palestinian) people.

2. The (Israeli) (Palestinian) people acknowledge that the (Palestinian) (Israeli) people have the right to economic and physical security.

3. The (Palestinian) (Israeli) people acknowledge that they will need to make painful compromises to achieve peace.

These statements acknowledge the humanity of the Israelis and the Palestinians — an acknowledgment that is missing from and critical to both sides moving forward.

Maida Schifter, Silver Spring

Perhaps because of oversight or print limitations, Dennis Ross made no recommendations of Palestinian actions to restore confidence in Palestinian-Israeli cooperation.

Israeli security and police forces are arresting Israeli extremists who are behind the “price tag” attacks on Palestinian Arab mosques and property. But the Israeli public see no such actions on the Palestinian side. Mr. Ross says the Palestinian police are effective, but many Israelis are still bracing for a new round of attacks after the release last fall of 1,000 terrorists in return for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas recently embraced a terrorist who, using the Internet, enticed a 16-year-old Israeli boy to the West Bank city of Ramallah, where he was tortured and killed. Palestinian camps, squares and schools are still being named for terrorists who killed Israeli civilians. What message does the Israeli public take from that?

Mr. Ross has noted in the past the failure of U.S. governments to demand that the Palestinian Authority (PA) teach children the benefits of peace and that the PA stop its incitement of violence. Now that he’s out of government, Mr. Ross needs to repeat that message for the sake of peace.

Lenny Ben-David, Jerusalem

The writer served as deputy chief of mission at the Israeli embassy in Washington from 1997 to 2000.

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