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James Wilets

Prof James Wilets at Limmud Winnipeg: Israel runs the risk of becoming the equivalent of what the South Africans were 20 years ago.

by Terry Davis, March 14, 2016





James Wilets, a Professor of Law and International Relations at Nova Southeastern University in Floida, gave a talk at Limmud Winnipeg on March 13, 2016 in which he lamented that while there are willing partners in the Palestinian Arab world for a two state solution (the PA’s Mahmoud Abbas and the Saudi Arabian initiated Arab peace plan), that Israel’s current “right wing government” is not interested in negotiating to bring about a Palestinian state. His talk was titled “What Next? The Factors affecting Israeli/Palestinian Peace.”


Wilets concluded that if Israel kept moving in its present direction, “we run the risk of becoming the equivalent of what the South Africans were 20 years ago.” It would be difficult to argue that it was different from South Africa.  “Numerically and demographically we are getting to that point,” he said, noting that “Eventually we are at a point where people say this is South Africa.”


Wilets described a growing radicalization among Palestinians, which he attributed to a sense of hopelessness, of seeing land lost to settlements, and feeling they had nothing left to gain from negotiations, and nothing left to lose from turning to other tactics such as violence. He lamented that Abas and other moderates are open to a two state solution, that Saudi Arabia has floated the Arab Peace Plan recognizing the 1967 borders (which he described as identical to American descriptions of a solution) but that there was now no one to talk to on the Israeli side. In stating his position that Israel ought to negotiate a two state solution now (with Mahmoud Abbas), Wilets was more to the left of Isaac Herzog, Israel’s Labour party leader who has acknowledged that the two-state solution is not a realistic option in the near future.


From a personal perspective, he described how this places him, as someone who was involved in sanctions against South Africa under apartheid, in “an incredibly awkward situation.”


Further he explained that he worked with many good people in the human rights movement, people who were not anti-Semitic, who were now becoming more open to the idea of sanctions against Israel and products produced in the West Bank. In his opinion, Israel was being placed in an increasingly “isolated and scary” situation,

He emphasized several times that he was still a committed Zionist, loved Israel, had relatives there, and completely supported Israel’s right to defend itself against any aggression.


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