Thursday, March 1, 2012

Tun Mahathir's Letter to Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Anwar Ibrahim's Support for All Efforts To Protect The Security of the State of Israel

(Edited 2 March)

I reproduce the 2nd letter to PM Benjamin Netanyahu, 14 March 1997.
















PRIME MINISTER MALAYSIA 14 March 1997

His Excellency Mr Benjamin Netanyahu Prime Minister of Israel, JERUSALEM

Your Excellency,

Your letter dated January 23rd only reached me yesterday. I appreciate very much your taking the trouble to inform me on the situation in Palestine and the region. Unfortunately much of what you have written has been overtaken by events.

Malaysia believes in peace and in settlement of problems between neighbours through negotiations. As a last resort, we turn to third parties. In disputes over territories between Malaysia and Singapore and Malaysia and Indonesia we have agreed to get the World Court to decide. Dispute between Malaysia and Thailand over territorial waters was resolved by agreeing to share the non-marine resources equally.

Within the country, disparities in wealth distribution between the indigeneous people and those of immigrant origins were resolved through affirmative action in which the have nots would have a bigger share of a growing economic cake but there would be no expropriation and redistribution of what already belonged to the descendants of immigrants. Everyone has very nearly a fair share now and everyone is fairly satisfied. Relations between the different races in Malaysia are good and not disruptive.

The important point I would like to stress is not to take what already belongs to others even though historically they may be yours. Lately, Israel has been pulling down Arab dwellings in order to erect houses for Israelis. The whole world, including your ally, the United States condemns this. But Israel has gone ahead.

You condemn Syria for making threats. But their threats are the response to your own action. If you forcibly take over land and property belonging to the Palestinians, the only response if they are not to violently act against you, is to threaten to act against you. If they cannot retaliate and they cannot voice their intended retaliation, than they would have to submit to all your action no matter how wrong. What you are doing now is against the spirit and the letter of the peace process agreed to by your predecessor. How can we trust Israel if a change in the government negates solemnly given undertakings by a Government of Israel. Please reconsider your decision to build new Jewish settlements on Arab land.

The Israeli youths are here. Our intention is to show them that Muslims are normal rational people who want to live in peace and freedom. We hope that they will have a new impression of Muslims and Islam. There will be aberrations among Muslims but there are also aberrations among Jews and Christians and people of every religion. No religion should be judged by these aberrations. We hope that the youths will understand Muslims better and will want to be at peace with them. To have peace you have to make sacrifices. The Palestinians no longer demand the elimination of Israel. They are even prepared to share Jerusalem with you. They have made sacrifices.

We should remember that when Jews were persecuted in Europe, they had always found sanctuary among Muslims in Muslim countries. We don't regard Israelis as eternal enemies. But we cannot help but sympathise with the Palestinians because their land is being taken away from them now. It may have belonged to Jews three thousand years ago. A lot of traditional Malay land have been made part of Thailand. But we are not claiming Southern Thailand as part of Malaysia. If we go too far into the past we cannot live with our neighbours.

We are ready to have economic and technological cooperation with Israel but we cannot do so yet because you have not honoured commitments made by a legitimate Government of Israel. We would like to think that once we have established relations with you, it would be permanent.
Yours sincerely
DR MAHATHIR BIN MOHAMAD
The date of the letter from Netanyahu, 23 January 1997, coincides with the The Hebron Protocol,  which was concluded from 15 January to 17 January.

What preceded the Hebron protocol,
"was hardline Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, giving a green light to the long-postponed tunnel was an assertion of the de facto sovereignty Israel has held over all parts of the once-divided city since the 1967 Six-Day War. For Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, it became the cue to rouse his people's anger and frustration over the three-month-old Israeli government's failure to honor both the letter and the spirit of the 1993 Oslo accords.

The short new tunnel was completed a year and a half ago, but the previous Labour government delayed its opening so as not to antagonize its Palestinian partners in the peace process. Last January, Israel offered the Palestinians a deal, increasing Muslim rights on the Temple Mount in return for opening the gate. The Palestinians never formally agreed, former Labour cabinet minister Yossi Beilin told Maclean's - contrary to claims by the current Israeli government. With loose ends still lingering, and in light of last spring's wave of suicide bombings by Islamic militants and Israel's harsh countermeasures, then-Prime Minister Shimon Peres again put the project on hold. Last week, Netanyahu overrode the continuing concerns of security forces and gave the exit the go-ahead.
This resulted in full-fledged armed battles between Palestinians and Israeli forces.

What was the Kotel Tunnel Incident at the Western Wall in 1996?
Palestinians were infuriated upon knowing what had happened and were particularly outraged discovering the proximity of the Temple Mount and Al-Aqsa Mosque with the happening. Some claims were also made as to the damage done to the Al-Aqsa Mosque because of the excavation.

President of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat, denounced this happening, stating the act of opening the tunnel an act of Israeli oppression against Islam. He called for a mass demonstration against the act throughout Palestine and a general strike. Claiming that opening the entrance was a “big crime against our religious and holy places”, Arafat, along with Waqf protested against Israel’s efforts to “Judaize” Jerusalem. It was followed by mass protestations against Israel publicly.

What began as public protests, turned into full-fledged armed battles between Palestinians and Israeli forces. The fighting which started on September 24 lasted till September 28 and it was quelled to some extent before dying down completely. The causalities of this fighting is said to be 100 Palestinians and 15 Israeli soldiers.

To make up for some of the damage done, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signed the 1997 Hebron Protocol with PA. Under the agreement, Israel agreed to lift the occupation from Hebron, the city of West Bank, as was agreed in the 1993 Oslo Accords. There were some protests from Israeli people against the agreement, however, the majority conceded. Signing of this agreement was viewed as victory by the Palestinians as a result of protest of the Kotel tunnel Incident.

This letter dated 14 March 1997 to Netanyahu specifically refers to Israel building new settlements and displacing Palestinians but is certainly predated by events, the letter from Netanyahu dated 23 January, is six days after the Hebron protocal.

Hence, "Unfortunately much of what you have written has been overtaken by events." because "Lately, Israel has been pulling down Arab dwellings in order to erect houses for Israelis" and with reference to the Western Wall Tunnel,
"If they cannot retaliate and they cannot voice their intended retaliation, than they would have to submit to all your action no matter how wrong. What you are doing now is against the spirit and the letter of the peace process agreed to by your predecessor.

How can we trust Israel if a change in the government negates solemnly given undertakings by a Government of Israel. Please reconsider your decision to build new Jewish settlements on Arab land
."

Evidently, there is nothing in this letter by the Tun, that can be related to or remotely connected to Anwar Ibrahim's "support of all efforts to protect the security of the State of Israel".

Once again what the Tun Mahathir's letter shows is another Israeli Prime Minister acknowledging him to be highly regarded in the Muslim world and the Palestinian cause, "I appreciate very much your taking the trouble to inform me on the situation in Palestine and the region."

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