103 IDF Ex-Generals, Spy Chiefs Urge New Peace Bid

Categories: Seek Peace and Pursue it

In what appears to be the largest-ever joint protest by senior Israeli security personnel, a group of 106 [corrected 103] retired generals, Mossad directors and national police commissioners has signed a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urging him to “initiate a diplomatic process” based on a regional framework for peace with the Palestinians.

Several of the signers told Israel’s Mako-Channel 2 News in interviews that Israel had the strength and the means to reach a two-state solution that “doesn’t entail a security risk,” but hadn’t managed to reach an agreement because of “weak leadership.”

“We’re on a steep slope toward an increasingly polarized society and moral decline, due to the need to keep millions of people under occupation on claims that are presented as security-related,” reserve Major General Eyal Ben-Reuven told Mako’s Roni Daniel. “I have no doubt that the prime minister seeks Israel’s welfare, but I think he suffers from some sort of political blindness that drives him to scare himself and us.”

The letter was initiated by a former Armored Corps commander, reserve Major General Amnon Reshef. He told Yediot Ahronot in an interview published Friday, and posted in English today on Yediot’s Ynetnews.com website, that he was “tired of a reality of rounds of fighting every few years instead of a genuine effort to adopt the Saudi initiative.”

He was referring to the Saudi-backed peace proposal that was adopted unanimously by the Arab League in 2002 (here is the full text) and later endorsed 56-0 by the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation, with Iran abstaining. It has since been repeatedly reaffirmed and its terms softened. As currently framed, it offers full peace, diplomatic recognition and “normal relations” between the Arab states and Israel in return for Israeli withdrawal to borders based on the pre-1967 armistice lines, with negotiated land swaps, and a “just” and mutually “agreed” compromise solution to the Palestinian refugee problem.

The generals’ call echoes a proposal for a regional peace conference that was floated during the Gaza war this summer by Israel’s science minister, Yaakov Peri, a member of Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party and a former director of the Shin Bet security service. It’s currently being advocated within the security cabinet by Lapid and justice minister Tzipi Livni.

Netanyahu takes the position that Palestinian statehood at this juncture would imperil Israel’s security.

Retired generals have occasionally made joint statements in the past, but never in such numbers and rarely on political matters that aren’t directly related to army business. In January 2012, 52 ex-generals signed a petition calling for legislation to require military or equivalent national service for Haredi men. In November 2011, 19 ex-generals called on IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz to combat growing religious extremism in the army. In February 2010, 15 ex-generals signed a statement criticizing “leftist organizations,” including the New Israel Fund, that they said had damaged the IDF by aiding the Goldstone Report.

The 106 signers of the current letter to Netanyanu include 101 IDF veterans with the rank of brigadier or major general, as well as two former chiefs of the Mossad intelligence agency and three former commanders of Israel’s National Police. (Yediot’s report, which preceded Mako, gave a total of 105.)

The generals’ letter apparently doesn’t refer directly to the Arab Peace Initiative (I haven’t seen the letter’s full text yet), but in calling for a regional process it appears to rely on the willingness of the Saudis and Egyptians to sponsor a conference leading to negotiated peace that renders “the Arab-Israeli conflict ended,” based on the initiative.

The purpose of enlisting the neighboring Arab states is to give the Palestinian leadership backing and legitimacy to accept compromises it has failed to embrace on its own in bilateral talks…

[This article originally appeared in the Forward, November 2, 2014, and is reproduced with permission.]

To:      The Prime Minister — Mr. Binyamin Netanyahu
Re:      Political-regional outlook—two states for two peoples
Dear Prime Minister,

We, the undersigned, are IDF commanders and police officers in the reserves that have fought in Israel’s wars.

We know from experience the heavy and painful price exacted by these wars; we fought powerfully for the State in the hope that our children would live here in peace. But the reality is that we are again sending our children to the battlefields, watching them don uniforms and bulletproof vests to fight in Operation Protective Edge.

We were impressed by your level-headed leadership in Operation Protective Edge; in those circumstances Israel could not and cannot allow fire on our homes nor to put the public in danger. But this operation may turn out to be in vain if we do not act to prevent the next war. The government of Israel and its residents do not have the privilege of sitting around idly.  It is time to take responsibility for our future and take advantage of the historical opportunity that has come up following Operation Protective Edge.

We are in the midst of the memorial days marking the fallen of the Yom Kippur War, a war that stemmed from the political blindness of the Israeli leadership. We are concerned that similar blindness will thwart the opportunity before us. Therefore we call on you to adopt the political-regional approach and begin negotiations with moderate Arab states and with the Palestinians (in the West Bank and in Gaza, too) based on the Saudi-Arab Peace Initiative, as proposed to Israel by the President of Egypt Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi at the recent international conference in Cairo, and Saudi Prince Turki Al Faisal last July.

Sir, you yourself have declared a political horizon and stated that there are shared interests. You know that the moderate Arab states want to promote together with us a political arrangement that will enable us to confront our mutual enemies together and stabilize the Middle East.

You know that this is the real answer to the Iranian threat and the terror threats of ISIL, Hamas, Hezbollah, Al Qaida and other terrorist organizations. You also know that only the political-regional approach and an arrangement with the moderate Arab states has a chance of bringing about an agreement with the Palestinians, stability, security and economic prosperity.

The political-regional approach brings with it great hope. Only this approach can create the dramatic political change that will lead to socio-economic growth and turn Israel into model society for its citizens, the Jews of the Diaspora and the nations of the world. Only this approach can be the weight that will tip the socio-economic scale, lower the high cost of living and impact the quality of life of the public that is raising its voice in economic protest.

This is not a question of right or left. This is not a question of fear. This is another idea for the solution of the conflict that is not based on negotiations with the Palestinians that have failed time and again.

Sir, please do not join those who, every other day, use warnings of danger as an excuse to do nothing. We know what is necessary to achieve security for Israel, and we know that regional cooperation will contribute to this goal.

There is a high chance that this initiative will succeed! But even if it doesn’t, you owe this to the people of Israel.
Only then can we look our children and grandchildren in the eye and say: “We tried; we are sorry, we did not succeed.”
We expect of you a courageous initiative, leadership and vision.
As a fighter, you were raised on the slogan “only he who dares, succeeds.”
As a politician, adopt the slogan “only he who initiates, succeeds.”

Lead the way and we will stand behind you!
Zamir, Zvi, former head of Mossad, Major General (res).
Yatom, Danny, former MK; former head of Mossad; Major General (res).
Hefetz, Assaf, Commissioner (ret.)
Turner, Yaakov,  Commissioner (ret.) ; Brigadier General (res.)
Shaffir, Herzl, Commissioner (ret.) Major General (res.)
Avigdor, Gideon, Brigadier General (res.)
Even Zahav, Yehu, Brigadier General (res.)
Egozi, Shlomo, Brigadier General (res.)
Agmon, Uri,  Brigadier General (res.)
Agmon, Yoram, Brigadier General (res.)
Ohayon, Berti, Major General (ret.- police)
Ophir, Gabi, Major General (res.)
Oron, Israela, Brigadier General (res.)
Ilya, Shlomo, Brigadier General (res.)
Almog, Avraham, Brigadier General (res.)
Almog, Zeev, Major General (res.)
Erez, Haim, Major General (res.)
Erez, Oded, Brigadier General (res.)
Asher, Danny, Brigadier General (res.)
Baharav, Yisrael, Brigadier General (res.)
Biton, Dan, Major General (res.)
Ben Bashat, David, Major General (res.)
Ben David, Shimon, Brigadier General (res.)
Ben Nun, Aviyahu, Major General (res.)
Ben Porat, Mordechai, Brigadier General (res.)
Ben Reuven, Eyal, Major General (res.)
Bar, (Y.B.) Yehuda, Brigadier General (res.)
Bar-David, Avraham, Brigadier General (res.)
Baram, Amos, Brigadier General (res.)
Barak, Haim, Brigadier General (res.)
Gavish, Yeshayahu (Shaike), Major General (res.)
Givoli, Shaul, Major General (ret.- police); Brigadier General (res.)
Gonen, Yosef, Brigadier General (res.)
Gofen, Haim, Brigadier General (res.)
Goren, Giora, Brigadier General (res.)
Gazit, Shlomo, Major General (res.)
Gross, Ehud, Brigadier General (res.)
Dolev, Eran, Brigadier General (res.)
Dotan, Yishai, Brigadier General (res.)
Dotan, Rami, Brigadier General (res.)
Waks, Shlomo, Brigadier General (res.)
Vardi, Danny, Brigadier General (res.)
Zohar, Avi, Brigadier General (res.)
Zacharin, Zeev, Brigadier General (res.)
Zamir, Itzhak, Brigadier General (res.)
Zaken, Nahum, Brigadier General (res.)
Haike, Giora, Brigadier General (res.)
Hefetz, Shimon, Brigadier General (res.)
Tiller, Avi, Major General (ret.- police)
Tal, Alex, Major General (res.)
Taran, Benny, Major General (res.)
Yutov, Herzl, Major General (ret.- police)
Yoseph, Eyal, Brigadier General (res.)
Yaari, Aviezer (Avi), Major General (res.)
Yitzhaki, Yair, Major General (ret.- police)
Yitzhaki, Sasson, Brigadier General (res.)
Yaron, Amos, Major General (res.)
Kitri, Ron, Brigadier General (res.)
Lev, Giora, Brigadier General (res.)
Lev Tzur, Uzi, Brigadier General (res.)
Levi, Asher, Brigadier General (res.)
Levin, Amiram, Major General (res.)
Lapid, Ephrain, Brigadier General (res.)
Lapidot, Amos, Major General (res.)
Morag, Ami, Brigadier General (res.)
Mizrachi, Avi, Major General (res.)
Mizrachi, Aryeh, Brigadier General (res.)
Mitzna, Amram, MK; Major General (res.)
Maron, Menachem (Modi), Major General (res.)
Spector, Yiftach, Brigadier General (res.)
Spector, Moshe, Brigadier General (res.)
Ivri-Sukenik, Moshe, Major General (res.)
Eilam, Uzi, Brigadier General (res.)
Eini, Menachem,, Brigadier General (res.)
Einan, Menachem, Major General (res.)
Amir, Amos, Brigadier General (res.)
Inbar, Menashe, Brigadier General (res.)
Inbar, Shlomo, Major General (res.)
Peled, Elad, Major General (res.)
Palant, Emi, Brigadier General (res.)
Tsur, David (Tsuri) , MK, Major General (ret.- police)
Kadmiel, Doron, Brigadier General (res.)
Koren, Zeev, Brigadier General (res.)
Keinan-Kauli, Eitan, Brigadier General (res.)
Kanor, Zvi. Brigadier General (res.)
Krauza, David, Major General (ret.- police)
Keren, Aryeh, Brigadier General (res.)
Rabin, Yitzhak, Brigadier General (res.)
Rothschild, Danny, Major General (res.)
Rom, Giora, Major General (res.)
Ron, Elik, Major General (ret.- police)
Ram (Furman), Giora, Brigadier General (res.)
Ram, Micha, Major General (res.)
Reshef, Amnon, Major General (res.)
Saguy, Uri, Major General (res.)
Shachor, Oren, Major General (res.)
Stern, Elazar, MK; Major General (res.)
Shalom, Hagai, Major General (res.)
Sheffi, Shaul, Brigadier General (res.)
Shaked, Emanuel (Mano), Brigadier General (res.)
Sharon, Menachem, Brigadier General (res.)
Sharoni, Nati, Major General (res.)
Tamari, Dov, Brigadier General (res.)

About J.J. Goldberg

J.J. Goldberg, editor at large, was the Forward’s editor in chief from 2000 to 2007. He previously served as a syndicated columnist, U.S. bureau chief of The Jerusalem Report, managing editor and New York bureau chief of the Forward, managing editor of the New York Jewish Week, editor of the magazine Jewish Frontier and metro reporter for the Los Angeles Hebrew-language newsweekly HaMevaker. His books include "Jewish Power: Inside the American Jewish Establishment", and his essays and articles have appeared in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday, The Daily Beast, Salon, Columbia Journalism Review and elsewhere. His writing has been honored repeatedly by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Rockower Awards of the American Jewish Press Association, the New York Press Association, the Deadline Club of the Society of Professional Journalists and other organizations. A graduate of McGill University and Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, he has served in the past as an education specialist with the World Zionist Organization in Jerusalem, a founding member and secretary-general of Kibbutz Gezer near Tel Aviv, a sharpshooter with the Israeli Border Police Civil Guard, a New York City taxi driver and a member of the Pulitzer Prize jury. J.J. Goldberg can be reached at goldberg@forward.com
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