As 2011 begins, no conclusive peace settlement in the Middle East has been reached. In 2010, the world witnessed a historic 10-month settlement freeze put in place by the Netanyahu administration. Over the past year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has taken extraordinary steps to show his commitment to the peace process and his desire to see peace in his lifetime.
The Middle East peace talks — which took place in September of this past year — failed because of the Palestinian leadership’s demand that all of their preconditions be met and their refusal to recognize the Jewish state. Israel was more than willing to negotiate with the Palestinian leadership in hopes of achieving a new lasting peace agreement. Israel didn’t make demands in advance that would cause the peace talks to fail because the Israeli leadership is willing to support an agreement that would allow Israeli citizens to live in peace.
Like Yonah Lieberman (March for an inclusive Israel, 12/10/2010), I too am a Jew. I was raised to believe in justice and equality for all and that it’s just as important to speak of these principles as it is to put them into action.
Similar to any state, Israel isn’t perfect. In the face of extraordinary circumstances Israel does the best it can to provide justice and protection for all. Unlike the Palestinian territories, Israel provides religious, political, gender and sexual freedom for everyone. There’s a reason that the gay pride march in Israel takes place in Tel Aviv and not in the Palestinian territories.
The recent statement by a small group of radical rabbis informing Israeli Jews not to sell property to non-Jews was met by fierce criticism from the prime minister. Netanyahu was in total opposition to this statement, while just this past September, Khaled Abu Toameh from the Jerusalem Post reported that the prime minister “reaffirmed the death penalty for any Palestinian found guilty of selling land to Israelis.”
There’s a reason that people of any religion or belief can purchase land and own property in Israel — whereas in many Arab countries, Jews would be barred from any property ownership.
A few thousand miles to the south of Israel, a terrible situation has been going on in Sudan for many years. In an effort to flee the violence, many Sudanese attempted to seek refugee in Egypt. While they were permitted into the country, these refugees lacked any form of rights and faced persecution from the Egyptian government. Only a few weeks ago in December, The New York Times reported 23 unarmed Sudanese men, women and children refugees were shot and killed by Egyptian police for refusing to leave a public park. Where did these refugees then attempt to flee? The answer for many of them was Israel.
I’m proud of Israel for what it stands for and for her many accomplishments. Israel strives to attain a fair and equitable peace agreement even in the face of such hatred and violence. Israel has tried time and again to make peace with the Palestinian people, but each time is met with resistance from the Palestinian leadership.
While Lieberman is quick to blame Israel for any human rights violations, he neglects to acknowledge the citizens of southern Israel, whose human rights are violated on a daily basis. These Israeli citizens continue to live under the fear of constant rocket and mortar fire.
As the only democracy in the Middle East, it’s easy to criticize Israel. Israel has a government that is fully accountable to its citizens and is willing to admit when it makes mistakes. Unfortunately, articles like Lieberman’s attempt to paint a false picture of a homeland that has provided justice and refuge to so many.
Daniel Luks is a senior in the Ford School of Public Policy and a Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America campus fellow.