I was taken aback by the letter “Settlements hurt chances for peace” (Jewish News, Nov. 18) by Benjamin Shindel. I did not attend Mr. Fleisher’s presentation, but the argument about “settlements” is well known. It divides the society in Israel as much as it does the Jewish community here in the U.S. I believe Mr. Shindel’s argument is fallacious, and, much like the position of Israeli left, is misguided.

Here are some of my concerns about the arguments put forth in this letter:

1. If settlements hurt the peace process, then abandoning the settlements and giving up the land to the Palestinians should improve the relations and bring peace. However, the experience, most recently with leaving Gaza, has been exactly opposite – it emboldened the Arabs to launch numerous attacks against Israel, aiming at the heart of its civilian population. In fact, much Palestinian terrorism predates 1967, when Israel liberated Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Clearly, the settlements have very little to do with advancement of the peace process.

2. Mr. Shindel called Israel a refuge for the Jewish people. It is regrettable that there are people who view Israel that way – Israel happens to be a place where Jews can often find refuge from persecution, but first and foremost it is a Jewish state. Jews lived in the Land of Israel for millennia, despite being mistreated by the many occupiers of that land, because of deep historical and religious connection of Jews with the Land of Israel. The enemies of Israel try to delegitimize this connection – the UNESCO resolution denying Jewish connection to the Temple Mount is but one example. How sad to see well-meaning Jews advancing that same argument.

3. There is no reason that the Jewish “settlements” should be harming prospects for peace. Israel has a significant Arab population. Yet Mr. Shindel is giving a pass to the Palestinians who say they cannot have a state with Jews living in their midst. Does Mr. Shindel think Israel should expel its Arab minority, too?  Or does he think that Israel should have different rules applied to it than to the Arab neighbors? Judging the Jews, or Jewish Israelis by different rules than everyone else is a hallmark of anti-Semitism. Being judged by different rules is the reason Jews had left the Soviet Union (I was one of them). My heart aches at the thought that a son of a Jewish refugee should do the very thing we had escaped from.

4. If the choice were to have Israel as Jewish or democratic, I believe it has to be Jewish first. Otherwise it will be neither Jewish nor democratic. Western-style democracy has not worked anywhere in the Islamic world.  

5. It is ridiculous to call J Street “pro-Israel,” as the organization has a singular focus to criticize Israel for its “occupation” of Palestinian land. While it shares many views with the Israeli left, it goes even further than that, having been reported as the provocateurs paid by the Obama administration to advocate for the Iran nuclear deal. I hope Mr. Shindel, having been a part of this worthy cause, made his family in Israel feel safer now that Iran is awash in cash to supply weapons and nuclear materials to Hezbollah and Hamas.

Jews living in Judea and Samaria is not what hurts chances for peace. The real obstacle to peace is that Israel has no partner to negotiate with.

Alex Khazanovich



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