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Brit Tzedek v'Shalom

Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace


Chapter Activities

Atlanta, Georgia

Don't Miss Opening for Peace, Former Israeli lawmaker cites rare opportunity

By Jan-Jaben-Eilon
Atlanta Jewish Times
November 19, 2004

Three major changes have created a small window of opportunity for peace in the Middle East, former Knesset member Naomi Chazan said last week at Emory Law School, calling the events an "unbelievably unusual convergence of circumstances" that cannot be ignored.

In the last few weeks: Chazan pointed out, the Israeli government for the first time voted to remove settlements from part of the occupied territories, President Bush was reelected and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat died.

"All of these are dramatic sources of change that create challenges and opportunities for progress in the peace process," said Chazan, who was a member of the Knesset between 1993 and 2003 from the left-leaning Meretz Party.

"The most important question is, how do we take advantage of the ground shifting, to do properly what we didnt do in the last 10 years, which is reach a negotiated settlement," she said in a talk sponsored by the Atlanta chapter of Brit Tzedek vShalom (Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace), MeretzUSA and The Carter Center.

Chazan noted that change has "two magnificent characteristics: it opens up opportunities and it contains immense dangers."

According to Chazan, it is significant that the plan for disengagement from Gaza was created by Ariel Sharon, whom she called "the architect of the settlement enterprise."

"It looks like hell be the first Israeli Prime Minister to end at least part of the occupation of Palestinian territories," she said.

Referring to the upcoming elections for new Palestinian leadership, she said "there are strong democratic forces in the Palestinian territories. I know these people well. Ive been working with them for years. If the spin was that Arafat was unreliable and we couldnt negotiate with him, then the excuse is over. There is a negotiating partner on the other side."

Chazan also pointed out that the 4-year-old Intifada, or Palestinian uprising, was directed not only at the Israeli occupation and the mismanagement and abuse of power by Palestinian leaders.

"Corruption will no long get a pass, which is a very encouraging sign. The post-Arafat era will be very different from the Arafat era," she said.

Chazan also called President Bushs policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict "the greatest flip-flop Ive ever seen."

For his first two years, she said, Bush did nothing. Then he called for a viable, free Palestinian state alongside Israel, something no other U.S. president had ever mentnioned so bluntly. A year later, he came up with his road map towards a two-state solution.

Then, earlier this year, Chazan noted, the president stated that the Palestinians have no "right of return" and that the borders between Israel and a Palestinian state should accommodate major Israeli settlement blocs that have been built over the Green Line since 1967.

"At this juncture, the Bush administration cant afford to be inconsistent on Arab policy," said Chazan. "The U.S. has a lot of fence-mending to do in the neighborhood."

Chazan also criticized American Jews for not fully understanding the Middle East situation.

"The debate on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is much more nuanced in Israel than in America," she said, noting recent surveys that show 60 to 70 percent of Israeli citizens favoring a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"You cant be a supporter of Israel without supporting a Palestinian state," Chazan said. "Its anti-Zionist. I do not think Israel will survive much more than a decade unless theres a Palestinian state alongside Israel."
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