petition letter was published in the New York Times on July 18, 2002,
signed by hundreds of scholars, academics, professionals, and ordinary
In the wake of the recent bloodshed in the Middle East, many Israelis
and Palestinians -- and their supporters in the United States -- have
reverted to an us-versus-them thinking in which they see themselves as
righteous victims and ignore or minimize the injustices they have done,
and continue to do, to the other people.
In fact, both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples have suffered great
wrongs at the hands of the other, albeit in different and unequal ways;
both have legitimate grievances, legitimate fears, and legitimate
distrust of the other people's willingness to compromise for the sake
Though the signers of this letter have a wide range of views about the
blame for the present situation, we have a common view of what a
solution will have to consist of.
Incremental attempts at building trust have reached an impasse. The
only alternative to endless war is a comprehensive settlement based on
simple but radical principles:
Israeli and Palestinian lives are equally precious.
The Israeli and Palestinian peoples have equal rights to national
self-determination and to live in peace and security.
The Israeli and Palestinian peoples have equal rights to a fair share
of the land and resources of historic Palestine.
Fair-minded people throughout the world have long understood with some
precision what a tenable solution, respecting these principles, would
Two national states, Israel and Palestine, with equal sovereignty,
equal rights and equal responsibilities.
Partition along the pre-1967 border as modified only by minor mutually
agreed territorial swaps.
Israeli evacuation of all settlements in the occupied territories
except those within the agreed swapped areas.
Palestinian and Arab recognition of Israel and renunciation of any
further territorial claims.
Palestinian acceptance of negotiated limitations on the "right of
return" in exchange for financial compensation for refugees.
Several years ago, polls showed that majorities of both Israelis and
Palestinians were willing to accept a compromise settlement of this
kind. Despite the current carnage, that may still be the case; but
compromise is difficult when majorities on both sides support
provocative military actions that they view as purely defensive, while
powerful minorities pursue maximalist territorial aims.
If Israelis and Palestinians are unwilling or unable to negotiate a
workable peace, the international community must take the lead in
promoting one. This is in the long-term interest not only of Israelis
and Palestinians, but also of Americans: recent events have made
painfully clear that our own national security is deeply undermined by
instability and injustice in the Middle East.
The U.S. bears a special responsibility for the current tragic impasse,
by virtue of our massive economic and military support for the Israeli
government: $500 per Israeli citizen per year. Our country has an
extraordinary leverage on Israeli policy, if only our government would
dare to use it. As American Jews who care deeply about the long-term
security of Israel, we call on our government to make continued aid
conditional on Israeli acceptance of an internationally agreed
Rejectionists on both sides will of course attack any such settlement.
Foreign troops may well be required to enforce it, and they must be
prepared to accept casualties. One may nevertheless hope that
majorities of both Israelis and Palestinians will realize that an
imperfect peace is preferable to endless war.
There is no guarantee that this approach will work; but it is virtually
guaranteed that all alternatives will fail.