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LETTERS TO THE TIMES

Israeli Settlements' Role in Mideast Conflict

November 29, 2003

Re "Burdens on Peace: Fences and Arafat's Empty Words," letters, Nov. 24: Bruce Friedman asks, "What will Israel receive in return [for removing the settlements]?" First, Israeli soldiers won't have to guard the settlements anymore and will be able to focus on protecting Israel proper. Second, Israel will rid itself of a huge moral liability when it stops controlling the lives of the Palestinians. Third, Israel will rob Yasser Arafat of his ability to blame Israel for all Palestinian woes; this will encourage the Palestinians to find better leaders. Fourth, separation from the Palestinians will silence calls for a "unified state" that would destroy Israel's Jewish character. Clearly, evacuating the settlements is in Israel's interest even without reciprocal gestures from Arafat.

Ilya Shlyakhter

Cambridge, Mass.

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Please ask Tom Gorman to explain how Israel has "illegally occupied" the West Bank. I thought Israel won it from Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War. In defiance of the United Nations, Jordan (then Transjordan) occupied the West Bank in 1948, annexed it and held it for nearly 20 years instead of declaring a Palestinian state.

Since 1967, Israel has offered it to the Palestinians in exchange for a real peace agreement, but the Arab side has constantly refused, preferring the propaganda bugaboo of a horribly oppressive Israel to a sincere effort to live in peace. Even now, with the "road map" requiring an end to terrorism, this hasn't come about. It seems to me that Gorman, perhaps inadvertently, is supporting the rejection of peace.

Berl Golomb

Santa Barbara

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