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Brit Tzedek v'Shalom

Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace


The Jewish Exponent

A Creator of a New Mideast Peace Lays Out Whats On the Line
By Faygie Levy-Jewish Exponent Staff

November 6, 2003

Amram Mitzna, a famous - and, in some circles of late, infamous - Israeli politico came to town Nov. 2 pushing his controversial plan for peace in the Middle East.

Amram Mitzna, who lost a January bid to become Israel's prime minister, laid out his vision for a two-state solution, known as the "Geneva Initiative," at Main Line Reform Temple, Beth Elohim in Wynnewood to a crowd of nearly 400 people. Mitzna's appearance was sponsored by Brit Tzedek V'Shalom, the Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace; the Progressive Zionist Alliance; the Jewish Labor Committee; and the local branches of the Reform and Reconstructionist movements. Claiming that Jews worldwide had been "brainwashed" into accepting that there is "nothing to do, no one to talk with," the former mayor of Haifa spent his time trying to convince the audience that Israel does have a partner in the Palestinians.

"I'm here to wake up the Jewish communities in the United States that are in favor of making peace with the Palestinians," proclaimed Mitzna. "In the last few years, the voice of those who are supporting the idea of greater Israel ... is stronger - and may be the only voice.

"Hopefully, now with the 'Geneva Initiative' ... we have an agenda, and we are able to stand on our feet, and show that there is an alternative."

Plans for that alternative were ironed out by a group of Israelis, including Mitzna, and a group of Palestinians linked to the Palestinian Authority. But they were not endorsed by the governments of either party, though Mitzna did say that Palestinian chief Yasser Arafat has lent his support to the plan.

Critics of the plan include not only Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who defeated Mitzna in a landslide victory earlier this year, but former Labor Party leader and prime minister Ehud Barak. Opponents have taken issue not just with the initiative itself, but with the funding of the proposal by the Swiss government and members of the European Union.

Mitzna said he hopes that the 40-page document, complete with maps, will be sent to every Israeli household by the end of the month. It will be published in four languages: English, Hebrew, Arabic and Russian.

The "Geneva Initiative" calls for:
  • two states - Israel and Palestine;
  • the division of Jerusalem, with the Western Wall and the Jewish Quarter remaining under Israeli rule, and the Temple Mount and the rest of the Old City, going to the Palestinians;
  • Israel's withdrawal to the 1967 border vis vis the West Bank. A land swap between Israelis and Palestinians would also be part of the deal, as would the dismantling of numerous settlements, including Kiryat Arba, outside of Hebron, and the city of Ariel;
  • a demilitarized Palestinian state; and
  • the possibility of a limited number of Palestinians returning to Israel.
What makes this plan different than others, said Mitzna, is that it deals with all the issues, "down to the last detail," and does not divide interests into phase-by-phase discussions.

Time, he said, is of the essence. Given the demography of the region, Arabs would outnumber Jews in a matter of years. If Jews and Arabs were to live in one state, that would mean a Jewish minority would be inevitable.

But that wasn't Mitzna's only concern. He said the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is becoming "a religious one," where it's Islam versus Judaism.

"The only alternative is to reach a permanent agreement with the Palestinians," he said. If that's not possible, he continued, then Israel must unilaterally separate from the Palestinians.

As for the fence ... As for the fence currently under construction to divide the West Bank from Israel - an idea Mitzna once supported - the politician now calls it a "catastrophe."

He said that as planned, the fence has gone from being a security fence to a "political fence" that will put the "Palestinians in a ghetto."

Moreover, it "will cost billions of dollars, and do nothing."

Though critical of the fence, he did acknowledge that even his peace plan, if adopted, would not end terrorism completely. But, he said, "the best way to deter terror is by joining forces."

While Mitzna enjoyed a standing ovation from at least half of the crowd, some in the audience questioned his plan, although the talk was for the most part met with a respectful silence. Before the event, however, representatives of the Zionist Organization of America handed out pamphlets opposing Mitzna's plan.

The question-and-answer session that immediately followed the Israeli's talk - in the form of written inquiries to the speaker - represented all sides of the debate.

You may contact Faygie Levy via Email: flevy@jewishexponent.com

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