An open letter to Ambassador Alon Liel

Dear Alon,

I refer to a Times of Israel article of June 27, titled “Ex-Foreign Ministry director backs cultural boycott of Israel,” which quoted you as saying that to protest the lack of progress in the peace process, you support the boycott of products from West Bank settlements as well as Alice Walker’s refusal to have her book translated into Hebrew.

I happen to agree with your support of the SA government’s insistence on distinguishing between products made in Israel and the West Bank. However, since there is a division of opinion about whether the areas where the goods are made are in fact Palestinian territory, the loaded description made in “occupied Palestinian territory” can be avoided by using the more precise names “Judea” or “Samaria” — as the case may be. This should be part of a general insistence on truthful labeling, so that consumers can know, for example when buying a carpet if, as is common, it has been made by child slave labor in Pakistan.

While I join you in your anxiety to see progress in the peace process, I believe you owe it to your readers to explain how you expect your calls for boycotts in foreign media to expedite rather than hinder the peace process.

As your repeated calls for pressure on Israel and for boycotts have been widely published in the EUobserver, Al Akhbar and many other international media, your readers would welcome some constructive suggestions from you, in your capacity as a former director-general of the Foreign Ministry and a former ambassador, about how to achieve Arab-Israeli peace, rather than mere repetition of popular, ambiguous slogans.

I refer for example to your repetition of the conventional wisdom statement, on which there are divided expert opinions, that the internationally recognized pre-1967 line is the realistic basis for peace, and your statement to the Guardian newspaper that settlements are built on occupied land outside Israel’s internationally recognized borders and are illegal under international law. Bertrand Russell advised that when experts are not agreed, no opinion can be regarded as certain by a non-expert, and it is disappointing that you present these categorical statements as facts, rather than as your opinion, ignoring respected international jurists who have concluded the opposite, like William M. Brinton, Sir Elihu Lauterpacht CBE QC, Simon H. Rifkind, Julius Stone Jacques Gauthier, a non-Jewish Canadian lawyer who spent 20 years researching the legal status of Jerusalem, and several others (details can be found here.)

Your insistence on Israel returning to the Green Line with no qualifications at all implies relinquishing control of the Western Wall, Ma’aleh Adumin, Gush Etzion and even access to Mount Scopus. Is this really what you recommend — even it conflicts with President Obama’s advice to Israel to follow in the footsteps of the late Yitzhak Rabin?

In his last speech about two weeks before the dreadful assassination, Rabin said:

We will not return to the 4 June 1967 lines. First and foremost, united Jerusalem, which will include both Ma’ale Adumim and Givat Ze’ev, as the capital of Israel, under Israeli sovereignty.. The security border of the State of Israel will be located in the Jordan Valley, in the broadest meaning of that term. Changes which will include the addition of Gush Etzion, Efrat, Beitar and other communities, most of which are in the area east of what was the “Green Line,” prior to the Six Day War. The establishment of blocs of settlements in Judea and Samaria, like the one in Gush Katif. (The full texts of Obama and Rabin’s speeches can be found here.)

Why, then, do you continue to promote unrealistic expectations by advocating a policy that even your associate, the ultimate dove, Yossi Beilin, realizes is not feasible? His Geneva Initiative doesn’t call for retuning to the 1967 lines. It envisages “extended borders of the State of Israel [that] will include Jewish settlements currently beyond the Green Line, Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, and territories with significance for security surrounding Ben Gurion International Airport”.

And then, of course we need to consider that our partners to the peace process also disagree with your concept of the 1967 line as a future border. According to a Virtual Jerusalem report of September 16, 2011, Mahmoud Abbas declared that the 1967 lines don’t define the true borders but that the real Palestinian borders were laid down in 1947 by the UN. All other areas are by his definition “occupied territory” that the Palestinians intend to claim. Moreover, he implied that the 126 governments that have recognized the Palestinian right to a state had accepted this interpretation.

In addition, the charters of both the PLO and Hamas are unambiguous in contradicting your view that a return to the Green Line would result in peace.

In supporting Alice Walker, you imply support for the BDS movement, which admits that its ultimate aim, as expressed by one of its leaders, Omar Barghouti, is “euthanasia” for Israel. The objective of BDS, he said in an interview with Electronic intifada is one state to which all Palestinian refugees and their descendants will “return,” having grown from the original 700,000 to an estimated 4.7 million. The result, in his words? “The two-state solution for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is really dead. Good riddance.”

It would be irresponsible not to take the above factors into account if we are to achieve the peaceful two-state solution we all desire with secure and defensible borders; lest they misunderstand exactly what you are advocating when you make appeals to other states to pressure Israel, these factors cannot be justifiably ignored.

This letter is being publicized as will the considered reply I hope to receive from you.

About the Author
Maurice Ostroff is a founder member of the international Coalition of Hasbara Volunteers, better known by its acronym CoHaV, (star in Hebrew), a world-wide umbrella organization of volunteers active in combating anti-Israel media and political bias and in promoting the positive side of Israel His web site is at