January 18, 2001
Open Letter to President Bill
Dear President Clinton:
This is the first time I have written a letter of this kind, but I felt it was time to express my feelings on paper.
I moved from Los Angeles to Jerusalem about 18 months ago. I consider myself middle-of-the-road when it comes to politics, and I believe that there must be painful concessions from both the Israelis and the Palestinians if there is to be peace. Tolerance has always been a cardinal value in my family.
It was my father, Rabbi Marvin Hier, who founded the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles. Tolerance to me is trying to understand where other people who do not necessarily share my views are coming from. While my opinions may not change, my sensitivity to their opinions will. Mr. President, the United States of America stands for democracy. Since America was born, it has done whatever it can to preserve and spread democracy. Therefore, I have a difficult time understanding why you are pressing the peace process when you know very well that Israel will be having new elections in less than 30 days. You are well aware of the latest polls, which show Barak far behind. What if there is an agreement between Barak and Arafat, and then the Israeli people vote the current prime minister out along with the deal that you have brokered? Then what have you accomplished other than bolstering your presidential legacy?
I have four small children whom I am afraid to send on a public bus for security reasons. I live not very far from the prime minister's official residence in Jerusalem. It is tragic that people living in this area, or any area, should feel so insecure.
When and if Israel decides to give up land, all of the Palestinians, including the splinter groups, must be involved in and agree to the outcome. A deal without all of these groups would be like mending only part of a seam in one's pants -- if not fully closed, it will reopen.
I am afraid that under your terms -- and I favor giving up some of the territories if we can achieve a real and lasting peace -- we will still continue to experience even more bus bombings and terrorist attacks. Mr. President, could you sell this concept to your own people if this were happening in America? I am not saying that there are not extremists on both sides, but look at the statistics regarding terrorist attacks on innocent men, women and children. When was the last time you heard about a bomb planted by Jews exploding on a Palestinian school bus? Not recently, because it just doesn't happen.
My rabbi once said that just because you ask G-d for something doesn't mean the answer will always be "yes." Sometimes, the answer is "no." I know that you worked hard to achieve peace in the Middle East, but perhaps you need to let someone else complete the task that you have started. Please remember, Mr. President, what we learn from our sages: "Do not do unto others that which you would not do unto yourself."