When Helena Cobban describes the transfer of Palestinians from the West Bank as a form of "ethnic cleansing" ("Protect Palestinians now," Opinion, July 8), she is hardly serving the interests of public literacy on international matters. As a close reader of the press on international issues for many years, I understand that "ethnic cleansing" refers to mass murder, not to geographic transfer.
Transfer of West Bank Palestinians may well be a sensible solution to a problem that otherwise seems intractable. It has been a solution to territorial disputes throughout the history of mankind. Addressed competently and with goodwill by the parties involved, transfer may actually redound to the benefit of those transferred. Rather than inject the intensely prejudicial term "ethnic cleansing," one should think in terms of the policy that created our own country, which involved "transfer" by almost every current American or their ancestors.
Helena Cobban's column "Protect Palestinians now" on the problems of Palestine is quite right. In the short term, there will not be a reduction in violence unless independent forces stand between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Day after day, the Israel Defense Forces are killing completely innocent and helpless Palestinians and are making Palestinian lives absolutely unbearable.
It is very sad that the Israeli government will not willingly allow independent forces to stand between the two peoples. It is also fairly clear that Israel is pursuing its own agenda of settling the occupied territories in defiance of international law. Israel is clearly afraid that this agenda will be hindered if the Israel Defense Forces are kept out of the occupied territories and replaced with independent monitors.
Regarding "For Arafat's new security cop: gridlock" (July 8): Your article states that "the only politically viable stance among a people fed up with 35 years of Israeli occupation has been to endorse the fight."
Your article ignores a simpler, more effective solution for the Palestinians. As confirmed by former President Clinton's chief Middle East negotiator, Dennis Ross, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak had offered an end to the occupation, a Palestinian state on all of Gaza and 95 percent of the West Bank, and shared sovereignty in Jerusalem.
The Palestinians did not even make a counteroffer. Instead, they launched almost two years of terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians.
The Palestinians were free to reject Mr. Barak's offer and to continue to negotiate further. But to suggest that they had no "politically viable stance" but to "fight" is a sad commentary on Palestinian politics.
I have read that former Prime Minister Barak's offers for a Palestinian state would have left the Palestinians with a completely fragmented West Bank, in which all existing major roads would have had to pass through settlements annexed by Israel, leaving the West Bank full of holes like a piece of Swiss cheese.
Clearly, the concessions offered by Mr. Barak were not enough to ensure a viable, independent Palestinian state. Israel's proposal to keep territory for settlements, roads, and security perimeters would have relegated Palestinian statehood to a jumble of disjointed settlements.
Margaret G. Schaeffer
Farmington Hills, Mich.
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