A New Solution to Unilateral Withdrawal
Sarsur, head of the Islamic Movement, suggested that those Jewish communities in Yehuda and Shomron slated for destruction in Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s unilateral withdrawal plan should consider living in a future Palestinian state.
During a meeting with rabbis and Islamic religious leaders sponsored on Thursday by the Kedem organization (Voices for Religious Reconciliation), Sarsur said the Jews should be allowed to stay in their communities.
“As head of the Islamic Movement, and I am sure you will be surprised, I inform you that we are prepared to have the settlers stay in their places as residents of a Palestinian state,” he announced.
“This should be encouraged. It would be exactly as Israeli Arabs live in Israel, and it is a better solution than exchanging territory. I don’t understand why settlers couldn’t live in Palestine,” he said. The exchange of Israeli Arab territory for Jewish blocs beyond the 1949 cease-fire lines has been proposed by Yisrael Beitenu leader Avigdor Lieberman, who opposes Olmert’s unilateral plan.
“Despite the fact that they took over the land,” Sarsur said, “I support their continued residence there.”
Rabbi Shlomo Brill from Alon Shvut was not in favor. “From an ethical perspective, I cannot agree with the idea because I am opposed to Jews living in any other place in the world [than Israel]” he said.
Other rabbis pointedly referred to Sarsur’s earlier call for a pan-Islamic state ruled by an Islamic government and headed by a caliphate, saying it was a plan that is threatening to Jews and Israel.
Rabbi David Stav of Shoham and head of Petach Tikva’s Hesder Yeshiva, told Sarsur, “Your statement [on the matter of a caliphate] made us lose sleep at night. We want to smile with you, but not in the frying pan or in the fire”.
Sarsur said he did not believe a caliphate would pose a threat to Israel. “No one intends for Israel to be part of the pan-Islamic state,” he said. “I don’t understand why Americans, Chinese and Indians can unite, each of them in a large country, while we Muslims cannot unite into a country of 350 million here in the Middle East.”
Brill pointed out that the Jewish and Zionist dream is “to live in the State of Israel – the state of the Jews. We cannot surrender Jewish sovereignty, not only because of security risks,” he said, but also because “settlers would rather stay within the borders of Israel.” This, he said, was despite the concessions that might have to be made when Olmert establishes permanent borders with his unilateral withdrawal plan.
Stav also referred to a recent survey which showed that some 62-percent of Israelis prefer that the state encourage Israeli Arabs to emigrate. “The data should worry us all,” he said, “but it shows that Jews feel threatened”.
Sarsur maintained that his ideas should not pose a threat to Israelis, but rather should be seen as a new solution for everyone. “I recognize Israel’s right to exist,” he said, “but not to dictate my principles.”
He reminded participants of a time hundreds of years ago in Spain when Muslims and Jews worked together, and underscored his support for continued meetings between rabbis and Muslim religious leaders as a way of renewing that process.
Maybe if they live there [Jews in a new Palestinian state) and we as Israeli Arabs live here, we can all live peacefully together,” he said.