Candidate for U.S. envoy: Israel must unilaterally quit West Bank
Mideast expert and researcher Dr. Michael Oren calls himself 'last of standing unilateralists.'
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 leadership.
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 Middle East.
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 Ayash.
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.