AFSI-Israel founder says Arabs seek demographic win
By DEBORAH MOON
article created on: 2010-11-01T00:00:00
“What the Arabs couldn’t achieve on the battlefield, they want to achieve demographically,” said Bill Mehlman, founder of the Israel Chapter of Americans for a Safe Israel.
Mehlman was in Portland Oct. 12-15 meeting with various groups as part of his annual visit to the United States. He said he always tries to visit Portland, “because Inez (Weissman) runs, I think, the most active chapter of AFSI in the U.S. and there are people (here) sensitive to Israel’s needs.”
“A poison pill” is the term Mehlman uses for the Palestinians demand for the Right of Return for some 4.3 million individuals and descendants of Palestinians who fled Israel during Israel’s 1947 War for Independence. If the dispute was over land and borders, Mehlman said it would have been settled in 1947 when the United Nations offered both the Jews and the Palestinians a homeland side by side. “People forget the Arabs also were offered a state; they rejected it and went to war.”
The influx of 4.3 million Palestinians into Israel proper “would mark the end of Israel as a Jewish state,” said Mehlman during an interview with the Jewish Review.
That same day, Israel’s ambassador to the United States Michael B. Oren made a similar point in an op-ed in the New York Times: “For Palestinians, recognizing Israel as a Jewish state also means accepting that the millions of them residing in Arab countries would be resettled within a future Palestinian state and not within Israel, which their numbers would transform into a Palestinian state in all but name.”
Mehlman said the Palestinians confirmed that land for peace was not their goal in both 2000 and 2008.
“In 2000, then Prime Minister Ehud Barak sat with (Yasir) Arafat in Camp David and foolishly offered up to 95 percent of Judaea and Samaria—the West Bank—in exchange for peace,” said Mehlman. “Arafat walked away and the result was Intifada, guerilla war. Buses blew up, cafes blew up, people blew up.”
“In 2008, Mr. Abbas (president of the Palestinian Authority) sat with then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert who foolishly was willing to offer to trade 97 percent of the land, and rumor has it, take in a token number of refugees in exchange for peace,” said Mehlman. “And Abbas didn’t buy it. So what is it that is preventing this deal from being made? … What is left to negotiate? The poison pill.”
“It’s a dispute over Israel’s right to exist,” he said.
If both sides believe land for peace can’t resolve the stalemate, why did they agree to return to the bargaining table, Mehlman asked. He postulated the PA agreed to talk to keep the pipeline of U.S. funds flowing to the Palestinians—$1.4 million this year alone, he said, noting that little of that seems to get to the common Palestinian people, while the leaders become wealthy.
On the Israeli side, he said Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu returned to talks because of the U.S. demand that Israel talk to the Palestinians as a pre-condition for addressing the Iranian nuclear threat.
Mehlman said that unlike the mutual deterrent that the United States and the Soviet Union maintained during the Cold War, Iran is not likely to be deterred by the threat of a counterstrike from Israel.
“(Iranian President) Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said again and again he is prepared to accept a quarter million casualties in a counter strike if he can just wipe Israel off the map,” said Mehlman.
Mehlman said that given that mindset, “If he merely achieves possession of a nuclear weapon, it changes Israel’s strategic position. We become victims on call—just as we were during the Holocaust. Whether we live or die passes into the hands of an enemy who can decide at any time our fate.”
He said that Israel needs to buy time in hopes that Iran’s political situation will change. He said the demonstrations after the last election prove that the Iranian public opposes the current regime and supports democracy.
While in Portland, Mehlman spoke at an AFSI meeting, a gathering of Presbyterians and a group of Christians in the home of Bea Watson. He also recorded three interviews for Weissman’s radio show which airs on 1330 AM at 5:30 p.m. Wednesdays and repeats on Saturday at 1 p.m. and Sunday at 12:30 p.m.
Mehlman said he got a very good reception from his presentation to the Presbyterian group, who had recently heard from the pro-Palestinian organization Sabeel.
AFSI meets at Congregation Shaarie Torah the second Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. For more information, contact Oregon AFSI chair Inez Weissman at 503-535-4293.