Netanyahu's candidate for U.S. envoy backs one-sided pullout
By Barak Ravid Haaretz Last update - 06:01 24/04/2009
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's candidate for Israeli ambassador to
Washington, Dr. Michael Oren, supports a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from
the West Bank and an evacuation of most of the settlements.
Oren, a visiting Georgetown University professor, said in a lecture there
last month, "The only alternative for Israel to save itself as a Jewish
state is by unilaterally withdrawing from the West Bank and evacuating most
of the settlements."
Oren, a Middle East expert and senior researcher at Jerusalem's Shalem
Center, gave a 90-minute lecture entitled "The Gaza Crisis from an
Historical and Personal Perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."
Answering questions from attendees, Oren voiced his opinions about possible
solutions to the conflict and the policy Israel should take. He emphasized
that he does not represent the majority of Israelis.
"I may be the last of the standing unilateralists," he said. "The only thing
that can save Israel as a Jewish state is by unilaterally withdrawing our
settlements from the West Bank," and waiting for a new Palestinian
Oren said he does not believe that a solution to the conflict could be
achieved at this stage. Instead we should find ways to "better manage the
conflict, to relieve tensions and ameliorate the conditions under which
people live to ensure against future flare ups."
"Peace as a solution is not a question of next week but a generational
issue," he said. "One of the lessons that the failed Oslo process has taught
us is that peace must be built from the bottom up. We cannot impose peace
from the top down, it doesn't percolate from the top down."
Establishing a Palestinian state would require the evacuation of tens of
thousands of Jewish settlers from the West Bank and from holy cities like
Hebron, Oren said.
To take such a traumatic step most Israelis must be convinced that they
would be getting "absolute peace" and the "end of the conflict," he said.
Oren said he supported the disengagement from the Gaza Strip. After they
started firing Qassam rockets from Gaza, he said Natan Sharansky asked him
if the disengagement wasn't a mistake.
Oren said he replied that it had not been. The mistake was Israel's failure
to react to the Qassam fire, which sent a message of weakness to the entire
Oren also spoke about his personal experience regarding the Gaza Strip and
said he had "traumatic relations" with the Gaza Strip and Hamas leadership.
He said he could only regret the killing of civilians in Gaza in the course
of Operation Cast Lead and especially the daughters of Dr.Az A-Din Abu
But as an Israeli, he also cannot forget that his sister in law was killed
by a suicide bomber from Gaza and that 70,000 Palestinians cheered the
attack in the Gaza stadium, he said.