Amos Gvirtz is a nonviolent peace activist and a passionate proponent of justice for the Palestinians throughout Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.  He is one of the founders of ICAHD.  Amos Gvirtz lives in Kibbutz Shefayim near Tel Aviv and can be reached by email at

From: Amos Gwirtz Shefayim, Israel To President Obama,

 I have the honour to address this letter to you.

How will Israel conduct its relations with the new administration in the USA? Will the administration pressure us to reach peace with our neighbours more seriously than previous administrations? Will we be able to overcome the "danger" of peace?

The leader of the Israeli Right, Bibi Netanyahu, who won the last elections, was afraid to establish a solely right wing government in Israel. How would the world react to this government? He vigorously sought a fig leaf, so as to gain legitimacy in the eyes of your administration and in the eyes of the rest of the world. A fig leaf was found in the form of Ehud Barak, leader of the Labour Party, whose popularity was high following the vicious attack on Gaza (despite Barak's electoral failure).

Ehud Barak has a record of deflecting the danger of peace. He succeeded in destroying the peace negotiations with Syria, to withdraw unilaterally from Lebanon thereby enhancing the Hezbollah. He also succeeded in destroying the peace negotiations with the Palestinians, at the same time destroying the moderate peace movement in Israel. He cooperated with the provocations of Ariel Sharon when Sharon went to the Mosque of Omar on the Temple Mount in 2000, thereby igniting the second Intifada, all in an attempt to undermine the final attempts of President Clinton to achieve a peace settlement.

The trick of religious incitement, through a provocation on the Temple Mount, had already been used before by Bibi Netanyahu when previously Prime Minister. Netanyahu opened tunnel under the Western Wall in order to undermine President Clinton's peace initiatives, thus halting all peace negotiations indefinitely. I fear that you will also be tricked in this way if you pressure this government into peace negotiations. For a few years now a society of fanatics, ELAD, has been using the ruse of Archaeological Excavations in the village of Silwan in Jerusalem for ethnic cleansing. The Israeli government now wants to destroy 88 homes on the pretext of expanding the Archaeological Excavations. This is only one of the possible provocations you might face as a delaying tactic to stall peace negotiations.

At the time of the Oslo accords one of the Israeli settlers declared openly on television: " The Israeli government must decide: either war with the Arabs or war against Jews in Israel." The murder of Yitzhak Rabin clarified his point!

The results of the Oslo accords were very "interesting": in the seven years of the Oslo accords the number of settlers on the West Bank increased from 110,000 to 204,000. Israel destroyed more than 1000 Palestinian homes during this period and expropriated 160,000 dunam of land. In addition, Palestinians were expelled from their homes and their land in two areas. A closure was declared in the west bank, destroying the Palestinian economy, while in Israel the economy flourished after the Oslo accords. The Oslo accords enhanced Israel's occupation instead of halting it!

Related to it is the issue of interpreting the concept "war". According to the Israeli point of view war is violent clashes, while according to the Palestinian point of view, the concept of war is more inclusive. land expropriation, settlements, destruction of houses, expulsions, water robbery - all are acts of war conducted by an army armed to the teeth against a defenseless civilian population. None of these actions have anything to do with Israeli defence. They are all policies to expand the State of Israel and acquire more resources. Not to speak of the fact that they are in contradiction of International Law.

These actions show that the Israeli government has chosen war against the Palestinians in order to avoid an encounter with the settlers. Israel participated in the "Peace process" in order to pacify the U.S. administration, while at the same time the occupation was enhanced, in order to pacify the fanatic settlers and avoid civil war with them.

This pattern of deception was repeated after the Annapolis conference. Negotiations with the Palestinian leader were initiated, as well as indirect talks with Syria. How strange that the Israeli Right didn't demonstrate against the "Peace Process" of the previous Olmert government! They new it was all a farce. Land theft continued, the settlements were expanded as before, and now an additional area denoted E1 was developed, in direct contradiction to the policies of your administration. The destruction of homes continued. The taking over houses of Palestinians in Eest Jerusalem continued.

The same old trick is reused: stalled and sterile negotiations in order to continue takeovers on the ground, but now with an additional corollary: to make changes on the ground which are irreversible making peace impossible!
From all of the above I seriously would like to advise your administration not to pressure Israel towards peace. Rather I think the emphasis must be to make Israel change its priorities to enhance the periphery within Israel. I would suggest the following points:

        ·    An absolute cessation of budgets for settlements and other outposts

        ·    An end to tax breaks in the USA for all the funding of the settlements

        ·    Encouragement of settlers to return to within Israel's borders

        ·    Absolute cessation to land expropriation of Palestinians

        ·    Absolute cessation of destruction of Palestinian homes

        ·    An end to the building in the settlements

        ·    An end to water theft from the Palestinians

If diplomatic peace initiatives continue, the occupation will only deepen and the conflict will only widen. Instead of approaching peace we will move away from it. Only if Israel alters its priorities towards itself, replacing settlements with peace, will there be any chance of peace.

Israel's policies endanger the Jewish existence. Nowhere in the world are Jews more in danger than in Israel. Israel's actions encourage anti-Semitism endangering Jews everywhere. And all this while the Arab world offers us peace which has been ignored by Israeli governments.

Honourable president, you can save us from the threats of our fanatics on our existence and our peace.