Isi Leibler: An open letter to President Obama

21 April 2011

The following open letter by Isi Leibler to US President Barack Obama was originally published in the 'Jerusalem Post' on 13 April 2011.

Dear Mr. President,

During your recent meeting with American Jewish communal leaders, you reassured them of “America’s unshakable support for Israel’s security, opposition to any effort to delegitimize it or single it out for criticisms, and commitment to achieve a peace that will secure the future for Arabs and Israelis alike.” Moreover, you reaffirmed your undertaking to keep US military aid at its current high levels. On the eve of Pessah, when we celebrate our freedom from bondage, permit me to explain why, despite such assurances, most Israelis still harbor profound anxiety about your attitude toward our security.

I preface this with a reference to your disturbing remarks at the meeting, when you urged them to “search your souls” over whether Israel is genuinely serious about peace, and called on them to encourage us to take “bold steps.” Many of us consider such remarks as exemplifying the moral equivalence you consistently apply to our defensive actions in relation to terror attacks, and your penchant for condemning us while largely ignoring Palestinian intransigency. You appear to have endorsed the Arab narrative, which ignores the fact that it was the Jewish state that suffered aggression from its neighbors preceding the ‘67 war. You also seem to disregard the fact that the vast majority of Israelis today - including our prime minister - have no desire to rule over Arabs, and would dearly like to separate from them.

We may debate the amount of land beyond the 1949 armistice lines that Resolution 242 entitles us to retain, but the discussion is over minor percentages. Besides, two prime ministers offered the Palestinians over 90 percent of these territories - and were rebuffed.

Today, our region is undergoing unprecedented upheaval. For years we have been confronting a xenophobic, Islamic Iran, on the eve of achieving nuclear status, which repeatedly declares its intention to wipe us off the face of the world. 

Now the entire Arab world is in the throes of revolutionary turmoil. But far from emerging as free societies, new Arab regimes may prove to be even more committed to radical Islam than their corrupt predecessors. We fear that we will again be surrounded by fanatical rejectionist states committed to our destruction.

In this context, Mr. President, Israelis ask: What do you really expect of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his government? Bear in mind that unilateral withdrawal from Gaza led to increased missile attacks. And since your election, Israel has made all the concessions. Last year, under enormous pressure from you, Netanyahu took the unprecedented step of imposing a 10-month freeze on settlement construction, even in areas that will unquestionably remain part of Israel. He also committed the government to endorsing a two-state solution - a major policy reversal in his Likud party.

In contrast, beyond making duplicitous statements - concealed from their constituents - endorsing peace, the Palestinian leaders remained utterly intransigent, unwilling to compromise on a single issue, even refusing to negotiate. 

In fact, following Al Jazeera disclosures of compromises allegedly reached during negotiations with prime minister Ehud Olmert, the PA leaders blatantly denied having offered any concessions.

Surely this suggests that when negotiating with Olmert, Abbas was either duplicitous or conscious that brainwashing his constituents to hate us had been so effective that any genuine Palestinian accommodation was inconceivable.

The incitement emanating from every level of Palestinian society continues unabated, with Abbas brazenly sanctifying terrorists and providing pensions for the families of those who murder Israeli civilians.

Besides, the PA has been adamant in its refusal to recognize us as a Jewish state. Indeed, whereas 20% of the population of Israel consists of Arab and Muslim citizens, our “moderate peace partner” has proclaimed that a Palestinian state would be judenrein, insisting that he would not tolerate the presence of a single Jew. Mr. President, can you ignore such blatantly racist remarks from a leader you repeatedly refer to as a moderate peace partner? Many of us believe that the principal objective of Abbas, like his Hamas kinsmen, is still the dissolution of Jewish sovereignty; that he is merely employing Yasser Arafat’s tactics of extracting unilateral concessions and attempting to dismantle us in stages.

However, even if we accept your premise that Abbas is genuinely willing to make peace, can you, seriously visualize him having the power to deliver? Besides, you are aware that Hamas is a genocidal organization, committed to killing all Jews. Yet the man you insist is a moderate peace partner unequivocally repeats his desire to merge his PA with these Islamic psychopaths. Is it reasonable to expect us to support the creation of a neighboring state in which a dominant group remains proudly committed to our destruction?

And finally, Mr. President, a word about our right to defend ourselves. If authorities in Cuba or Mexico authorized missile launches targeting American citizens, would you call for restraint? Would you respond by merely bombing empty buildings? Would you apologize if innocent civilians employed as human shields became casualties in the course of efforts to forestall attacks on American citizens? Mr. President, over the 63 years since we achieved independence, despite continuous terrorist attacks and neighbors seeking our destruction, we have succeeded in creating a vibrant democratic state. It is thus unconscionable to apply moral equivalence between our efforts to protect our citizens, and those committing acts of terror.

When you urge your Jewish constituents to press Israel to make further unilateral concessions, it epitomizes the concerns we share about your inability to appreciate the perils we face. It also fuels our fear that you are contemplating further pressure on us to retreat behind the 1949 armistice lines - which would endanger our very existence.

I urge you to reinstate the principles outlined by the Bush administration. I refer to US rejection of the right of return for Palestinian refugees; recognition of demographic changes in relation to the major settlement blocs, not seeking to impose a return to the 1949 armistice lines; and support for defensible Israeli borders.

I believe I echo the vast majority of my fellow Israelis when I appeal to you to provide us with the confidence to move forward by taking these elements into account and review your current policy.

Isi Leibler

Add new comment

We welcome any comments you may have on this article.
Comments are moderated and we reserve the right to edit or remove any which are derogatory or offensive.
The WJC is not responsible for the content of any comments.

Comments

charles L. richman

Mon, 18 Jul 2011

Yophee Mr. Leibler, Your points are right on target; Toldah Rabbah for saying what most American Jews feel, 'I hope' and a large segment of the conscious driven American Christians think. Having lived in Israel in 1990-91 and in 2003-2004 I can attest that these stays were incredible, enlighting, and bounded me even closer with my heritage as a Jew. May Eretz Yisrael live forever. Charles L. Richman, Ph.D.

Lee Friedman

Thu, 28 Apr 2011

I emailed this letter to President Obama asking him to read this again. I also asked him how can there be 2 states when you have Palestinians In the West Bank and Gaza. Each is an independent area.

Harry Ipenburg

Sat, 23 Apr 2011

Great letter! This letter mirrors exactly our feelings but we could never have expressed it as well as Isi. Thank you so much Mr. Leibler