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LETTERS TO THE TIMES

Gaza Pullout as a First Step Toward Peace

June 25, 2004

Yossi Klein Halevi's June 22 commentary about the Israeli public's political mood mischaracterizes the role that Peace Now's positions currently play in Israel. Rather than refuting the views of Peace Now, the Israeli public has increasingly adopted its basic positions about the need for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the danger posed to Israel's future as a Jewish, democratic state by its ongoing occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and the need to evacuate settlements.

Peace Now supports Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's efforts to evacuate settlers from Gaza and parts of the West Bank. But it believes that this evacuation will fail to deliver security to Israel in the long run unless it is part of broader negotiations that will lead to a bilateral agreement. Although Halevi dismisses the Oslo process and Palestinian leadership, the fact is that Sharon is now indirectly dealing with the Palestinian Authority through the intervention of Egypt, Jordan and other international players that are working to transform his unilateral plan into a more complex multilateral effort that will provide security, stability and economic growth in Gaza after Israel leaves. The Gaza evacuation must be the first step, not the last, on the road to lasting peace.

Luis Lainer

Chair, Americans for Peace

Now, Los Angeles

Was Halevi reading the poll released this week in the Israeli daily Haaretz? The one that reports a University of Haifa study showing that 63.7% of Israelis believe the government should "encourage" Israeli Arabs to emigrate from Israel? Is this a "centrist" position? A reading of the Israeli press (available to anyone who has an Internet account) reveals the government has just such plans -- "encouraging" (much nicer term than "ethnic cleansing") Israeli Arabs to leave (into the West Bank?) and escalating the catastrophe that has been inflicted on the Palestinian people since the Balfour Declaration.

There is no place, or reason, in the world for a "Jewish only" state, because as soon as the Zionists were able to equate their racist, nationalist dogma with the Jewish religion, the religion began to die.

Rhoda Shapiro

Encinitas

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