In his letter (“Difficult decisions,” April 27), David Shayne misrepresents my views and my comments during my recent visit to Seattle. The subject of my talk was not the Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic stalemate, and I did not assert that Israeli settlements and Benjamin Netanyahu’s intransigence are solely responsible for that stalemate. Rather, I described the danger that the settlement effort poses to Israel’s own democracy and cohesion as a state.
A two-state agreement, I argued, is in Israel’s interests. Obviously, reaching an agreement also depends on the Palestinian side. But I’m hardly alone in the assessment that the Netanyahu government is uninterested in reaching an accord. The former head of Israel’s Shin Bet security service, Yuval Diskin, recently expressed the same evaluation, based on his own experience working with Netanyahu.
Contrary to what Shayne writes, I do not dismiss Hamas’s attitudes toward Israel. However, his argument that Israel cannot pursue peace as long as Hamas has an influence in Palestinian politics grants that organization a permanent veto over compromise. Israel cannot dictate internal Palestinian politics. But it does have the potential to reduce Hamas’s influence and increase that of moderate Palestinians by showing that it is committed to a two-state outcome. On the other hand, to postpone peace efforts grants a victory to extremism.