Zionist Peace Activist Opposes Israeli Fence

 

Monday  July 28, 2003

Barbara Ferguson • Arab News Correspondent

WASHINGTON, 28 July 2003 — The Washington media overlooked an informative briefing on Capitol Hill this week. This was perhaps due to the fact that, coincidentally, the Israeli foreign minister held a press briefing at the Israeli Embassy. This Capitol Hill forum featured an Israeli and a Palestinian, who together briefed congressional staffers on why a two-state solution is a necessary good for both countries.

“I was born a Zionist, raised as a Zionist and taught that the Zionist reason we are in Israel was to create a Jewish and democratic state,” said Didi Remez, a reserves captain in the Israel Defense Forces who has served in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and who also chairs Peace Now’s Settlement Watch Committee. “Our continued occupation of the West Bank and Gaza in endangering our future as a Jewish and democratic state.”

Commenting on the “separation wall”, or the fence, being constructed by the Sharon government, Remez said: “I’m for a separate wall that runs along the 1967 border, one that does not add thousands of Palestinians to the Israeli state.” “Their excuse is security, but the wall being built is political. And its goal is to try to create a new boarder and boundary,” said Remez, adding the West Bank and Gaza Strip make up only 23 percent of what was, in the past, called the mandatory Palestinian state.

“The Israeli ‘Separation Wall’ not only talks about enclosing Palestinians into cantons, but would compromise 40 percent of what is now Gaza and the West Bank,” noted his counterpart, Amjad Atallah, an adviser to the Palestinian prime minister’s office and the PLO’s negotiations affairs department in peace negotiations with Israel on the issues of international borders, security and constitution issues.

Remez, who strongly believes that Israelis will lose their identity unless they form a separate state for the Palestinians, said Israel must completely halt and freeze construction of existing settlements and dismantle settlement outposts.

“These actions by Israel should not be conceived as concessions. They are in Israel’s best interest, and supported by the solid majority of Israelis,” he said.

“The demographic makeup of the Israel settlements are right smack in the center of the Palestinian population, which means Israeli soldiers have to control 1,000 miles in order for them to be defended,” said Remez, former company commander of the Airborne Infantry in Gaza. Remez also faulted the “occupation policy of three million Palestinians, which has undermined Israel on economic, social and moral levels.”

Sixty new settlements have been built by the Sharon government since 2001, without the approval of the Israeli people. Significant, he said, as “polls show the majority of Israelis support the dismantling of settlements, period. And many of the settlers have said they would be happy to move back if Israel compensated them.”

“If the settlements stay, then a Palestinian state does not exist,” Atallah told the forum, organized by the Washington-based Americans for Peace Now. “The (US-proposed) road map is good decision as it unconditionally freezes all settlement activity.”

Criticizing the Sharon government’s logic that a wall is necessary for Israeli security, Atallah said the same “logic” was used by the Israelis regarding the wall they built in Lebanon. “It was not defensible, and the same is true regarding this wall.”

Atallah said the Palestinians urgently need freedom of movement. “There are 180 checkpoints in the occupied territories right now,” he said, which made it very difficult for food supplies to reach Palestinians. “The United Nations Relief and Works Agency and Palestinian opposition groups are feeding the people in the Gaza Strip.”

Many of the Israeli checkpoints are not near settlements, they are designed to separate the Palestinian people,” he said. Atallah said the only solution is neutral monitoring and verification.

“We not talking about peacekeepers, but individual experts to assess the situation on the ground. “Israel says they only trust Americans. This idea was accepted by the US,” said Atallah.

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