To: Shimon Peres, Foreign Minister of Israel
From: Peter Signorelli
Re: Man on the Margin
You, Shimon Peres, now are the man on the margin within Israel. The man on the margin is not Benjamin Netanyahu, whose victory at the Likud Party Central Committee resulted in the Likud Party declaration for eternal opposition to a Palestinian state. That simply feeds the nihilism, hopelessness and despair in occupied Palestine out of which myriad new "terrorists" will emerge. Nor is the man on the margin Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who consistently has carried out a brutal war of repression against the Palestinians but now is prepared to present himself as the new "moderate" force on the scene. No, the man on the margin in Israel is you, Minister Peres, which is not at all an optimistic prospect.
The question is do you have the character and courage to respond to the demands upon you. Notwithstanding your affirmation 20 some year ago of the Palestinians' rights to an independent state, your behavior since the victory of Ariel Sharon has been not just regrettable, but downright shameful and in fact cowardly. Instead of providing leadership for the peace forces within Israel, you brought Labor into a coalition with the Likud on the spurious assertion that Ariel Sharon was committed to the land-for-peace formula and that he would support a Palestinian state. Sharon has uttered words to that effect repeatedly, but as you well know, Mr. Minister, sweet words are cheap, but real deeds are even dearer.
Despite his words, Sharon's actions have been totally contradictory to his professed support for a Palestinian state. Yet, you have remained in a coalition with Likud, even going so far as to endorse the ruthless actions in Jenin and elsewhere in the West Bank, as well as the recently threatened military operation proposed for Gaza - all under the completely specious assertion that these operations are necessary to dismantle the "infrastructure of terrorism." Please, Minister Peres, you above all are well aware that it is the constant destruction of hope in the occupied territories and the consequent spread of nihilism that produces the so-called terrorists. When Sharon declares he will never recognize the legitimacy of Yasir Arafat as Palestinian leader, nor will he ever negotiate with him, and he literally surrounds Arafat with tanks and the IDF, what option is left for the Palestinians? And now, with the crazies on the ascendancy in the Likud Party - asserting the party will NEVER allow a Palestinian state - the stage is set for a resurgence of "terrorism" born and bred by the hopelessness Israel imposes on the Palestinians.
Are you actually - as some of your confidants now suggest - going to try to present Ariel Sharon to the world as the new "moderate," the one hope for peace? Please, Minister Peres, his every action belies any claim he may make to be a proponent of justice for the Palestinians. Surely, his recent remarks during "Jerusalem Day," when he boasted of his successful efforts to render Jerusalem a thoroughly undivided Jewish city by fostering new settlements in and around the city, illustrate his real intentions. It is the deeds that count, not mere words and it is well past the time for you to end your obscene osculatory attachment to PM Sharon's behind. You indeed are the man on the margin now. You left the peace forces adrift and leaderless, without a national/international spokesman of stature and integrity when you capitulated to Sharon and the Likud. One hopes that was merely a temporary lapse in character, a fear brought on perhaps by the realization that it was a Likudist who murdered PM Yitzhak Rabin. But what is required of you now is nothing less than the courage displayed by Rabin. You have to stand up and summon the courage to display real leadership. End this effort to paint Sharon as something he is incapable by nature of being. Even if mass sentiment is behind Sharon at present and in favor of a totally intransigent strategy toward the Palestinians, you know such a strategy will not bring peace and you cannot allow yourself to be intimidated by the fact that mass sentiment may be against you at present.
You are the only one at the moment with the stature and credentials within Israel to make the case that Israel can never achieve peace and security until it shuts down the illegal settlements and withdraws from the occupied territories. You also are the one who can make that same case within the American Jewish community, where supporters of the intransigent faction currently hold sway. Mortimer Zuckerman, head of the Conference of Presidents of Jewish Organizations, is one of those leading opposition to U.S. efforts to promote the resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. Self-appointed "Conscience of the West," windbag Elie Wiesel, Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, the Zionist Organization of America, and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, all believe they serve Israel's best interests by doing everything possible to oppose President George Bush's peace initiatives, the Saudi plan, and Israeli negotiations with the Palestinians. Your intervention here is critical.
You, however, cannot credibly make those points for peace while covering for Ariel Sharon. You may very well have to stand alone (although mass sentiment in Israel also is very much in favor of peace and your allies in the peace movement will again respond to your call if you show real leadership), but that is what leadership demands. I pray that you meet the challenge.