Micah's Letters

Occasionally I write letters, but not always as blog posts. I'll put them here for future reference.

LETTER TO JULIAN SMITH, MP for RIPON AND SKIPTON sent 8th October  2014

Dear Mr Smith

Re: Debate and motion on Israel/Palestine Monday 13 October

I'd like to urge you to consider voting in favour of the motion, being debated on Monday 13 October, to recognise the State of Palestine and to resist supporting the amended motion which delays recognition until the conclusion of a peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

I say this as a Jew deeply concerned about the fate of Israel as a democracy and the impact that the on-going treatment of the Palestinians is having on Diaspora Jewry around the world, including the rise of anti-Semitic attacks.

I also write as someone who has visited Israel and West Bank recently and spoken to both Israeli Jews (including Settlers) and Palestinians. I have seen first hand how Palestinian homes are bulldozed because of discriminatory planning regulations, how water resources are unfairly distributed and how the separation wall and check points make daily life exceptionally challenging. There are many other examples of injustices that I could recount.

This is not a situation which any Western government should allow to go unchallenged.

Having closely followed the progress of the 'peace process' since the Oslo accords in the early 1990s, and having watched as Israel has continued to unilaterally place 'facts on the ground' through the never-ending expansion of Jewish only settlements in the West Bank, I have little confidence that Israel has any interest in allowing a territorially contiguous and economically sustainable Palestinian state to ever emerge.

The failure of John Kerry's diplomatic efforts over the last year also made clear Israel's unwillingness to negotiate with any genuine commitment to compromise. This was demonstrated by the refusal to countenance Jerusalem as a shared capital city (something all Western states call for) and its desire to 'raise the bar' to peace by insisting on the recognition of Israel as a 'Jewish state' despite 20% of the population (inside the Green Line) being Palestinian Muslims and Christians.

The Fatah led Palestinian Authority has recognised the State of Israel for many years and even Hamas, despite its ridiculous charter, also recognises Israel in practice, having offered peace based on 1967 borders and through its willingness to form a Unity government with the Palestinian Authority. You may not be aware that Prime Minister Netanyahu's party, Likud, also has a charter. The Likud charter flatly rules out the creation of a Palestinian state on the West Bank.

Despite President Obama's efforts, I see no prospect of the current Israeli government concluding a fair and just peace deal with the Palestinians without considerably increased international pressure from Western governments such as the UK. Meanwhile, polling data from Israel over the summer suggests an ever more hard-line attitude from Jewish Israeli citizens to any compromise with the Palestinians.

By voting to recognise the Palestinian State in Monday's debate, you will help send a clear message to the Israeli government that the current situation is unsustainable and unacceptable in the view of its closest allies.

In contrast, by voting for the amended motion, it is my belief that you will be endorsing Israel's attempts to manage the status quo indefinitely while continuing to expand Settlements and discriminate against Palestinians. Voting for the amendment will reward Israel for its decades of intransigence, while the substantive motion will be a (very small) step towards placing the Palestinians on a level playing field in future negotiations.

The illegal occupation and theft of Palestinian land and the discrimination of its people under Israeli law has now been going on for nearly 50 years on the West Bank. The original injustices that date from 1948 have also never been formally acknowledged by the State of Israel despite extensive research and documentation by Jewish Israeli historians. It would seem like a good moment for the UK, with its long involvement in the conflict, to call time on a set of circumstances for which our country must bare some responsibility.

Mr. Smith, by voting for the original motion you can help to shift the current dynamics and encourage the Israelis to adopt a more realistic view of how long-term security for both peoples can be achieved.

I have little doubt that without increased and continued international pressure a peace deal will never emerge between the two sides.

Thank you for taking the trouble to read this letter.

With all best wishes

Robert Cohen

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