An open letter to Secretary of State John Kerry

Dear Mr. Secretary of State,

During your last speech at the Saban Forum, you spoke not only to our leaders, but also to the People of Israel. As I view myself as a part of this nation, and since your approach was personal, I feel a duty to respond to you personally as well.

I was moved to see that you are honestly worried about the future of the State of Israel. I believe that your worries are those of a friend and that you are speaking from the heart. Therefore, my response to you is from the heart, representing my feelings and those of many who feel the same as me.

We, the citizens of the State of Israel, are here in the Land of Israel, due to our historic rights. We arrived in this land, many of us, many generations ago, and many other families never left the Land of Israel for the Diaspora. Many were banished from this land and became refugees around the world.

We are here, because our Holy Scriptures serve as a landmark on every piece of land, where the footprints of our forefathers passed.

As we are commanded by our Bible we came here to love our neighbors and not to spread hate. We came to live in peace and cooperation, in order to bring to fruition the philosophy of the Jewish people stating in the Scriptures, “And you loved the stranger, remember that you were strangers in the Land of Egypt.”

We never set out to conquer lands. Every war in our region was imposed upon us by our neighbors, who did not want us here from the outset. I am part of a people who accepted the 1947 United Nations resolution to partition the land in a Jewish and Arab state, a resolution that was rejected by the Arab people. I am part of a people who was attacked in 1956, but quickly returned the territory conquered. Just ten years later, we were required to return to the battlefield on these same lands, and then understood that these lands could only be returned for a real, sustainable peace.

In 1967, we did not intend to conquer the West Bank. We begged the King of Jordan to avoid taking part in this war. However, Jordan dragged both sides into a battle over the West Bank, which is the Land of our Forefathers. After the war, Jordan refused to take back the West Bank and we found ourselves ruling over an area that never had an independent Palestinian government.

I am part of a nation who, as opposed to most of the nations on earth, returned land for peace, including significant natural resources, only because of the willingness to bring peace to fruition in our region.

We allowed the leaders of the PLO, a terrorist organization to return to the West Bank and Gaza, even though they were not accepted by Jordan or Egypt, in order to turn over a new leaf towards peace. However, this move did not bring peace but only terror, hatred, and alienation.

Today, you tell us again in your speech, that we are approaching the fateful moment of a binational state. If this is your approach, despite my love for all parts of the Land of Israel, the land of my forefathers — I would respond to your call, and state: if our neighbors indeed do want peace, if they also understand the danger of a binational state, we should all sign on to the following statement, with no compromises: a declaration of two states for two people. One state for the Jewish people, a people which is 3,000 years old, and one state to the Palestinian state, which we accept, even if we don’t know exactly what this people comprise. We should declare the end of conflict between the two nations, and each side would end its claims of the other.

All other details are secondary, which can be negotiated between the two entities which are recognized by one another. If you are indeed afraid of the binational future, there is a deep need for you to declare the need for mutual recognition of the state of the Jewish nation-state and the Palestinian nation-state as an essential aspect of reaching a solution. Without such a declaration, there will be no real possibility to find a real peace.

If there is no declaration like this, there will be no real peace, but only a waiting period for better conditions to defeat the other. Without such a declaration of recognition, without a notification that the conflict is over, there will be no way to move beyond the current violence and little ability to move forward.

The world must understand that the need for two states for two peoples cannot ignore the rejectionist activities of the other side, when they claim that they are for two-states, without defining the character of each state. Two states, without a definition of each state’s character, will only lead to more conflict. There is a need for a statement that the Jewish people returned to its homeland by natural right.

The bravery needed to state difficult issues cannot only be directed to one side only, but must be stated objectively to both sides of the conflict. The world finds itself offering moralization to one side only, as it ignores that the other side must meet certain requirements to reach peace in our region.

Dear Secretary of State, if your words would include such statements, many more in our society would be willing to listen more openly to your statements, which will convince more of us that your words indeed come from the heart.

With great esteem,

Dr. David Altman
Senior Vice President
Netanya Academic College

About the Author
Dr David Altman is senior vice-president at the Netanya Academic College and vice-chair of the college's Strategic Dialogue Center