Dear Mr. President,
We salute the recent efforts of your administration to bring a ray of hope for peace into the lives of Palestinians and Israelis. The Palestinians have been traumatized for too long by the Israeli occupation, just as the Israelis have suffered the effects of violent acts committed by Palestinians intended to end the occupation.
Yet, many of us feel that you can do more to take an active role in resolving this conflict. You mobilized a lethal force, hundreds of thousands of our finest troops, to fight a war in Iraq; you spent billions of dollars and committed the might and wealth of this nation to remove a tyrant and change his regime. You did it to “liberate” Iraq. But your efforts to bring peace to the Middle East pale by comparison and many of us are convinced you can do more.
The meetings, summits, handshakes and photo opportunities look very familiar to Palestinians, Israelis and many Americans. In a different time and place, we have seen similar pictures, heard the same speeches and wondered about the same reservations expressed by either side. Many of us agree with the objectives of your vision and the new road map, but we remain apprehensive about the process by which these objectives will be pursued: Like Able and Cain, the Palestinians and the Israelis can not be left alone, to their own devices; the stark disparity in military power makes it impossible for the parties to negotiate on their own, and to reach a just, fair and realistic agreement. Such a process was tried before, with results that are well known to all.
Mr. President, only one tenth of the force you mobilized in Iraq can bring the surest first step to peace in the Holy Land. Send that force on a noble mission of peace to separate and disengage the two sides, like we did in Sinai; let both peoples live without fear of the other while they contemplate peace. Let the two sides start by cleaning up their own societies and controlling the hatred in their midst; help both sides to free their internal resources to address their internal problems with incitement; let them establish their own internal peace before they can make peace with their decades old adversary. Only one tenth of the force we sent to Iraq should suffice in the Holy Land. If any people in the world would greet U.S. troops as liberators, it is the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza who have endured the yoke of occupation for 36 years.
Mr. President, liberating the West Bank and Gaza Palestinians, not just the Iraqi people, would be the true liberation. The Holy Land has no oil for us to covet, but peace in the Holy Land is the key to our success in the Arab and Moslem worlds.
MICHAEL S. LADAH
The writer is an Arab American who lived and worked in various parts of the Middle East. He is the author of “Quicksand, Oil and Dreams: The story of one of five million dispossessed Palestinians.” www.ladah.org