Yossi’s Response to the Saudi writer Ali Alayed. You can find the translation to Ali’s response here.

Dear Ali AlAyed,

Please forgive my long delay in responding to your gracious and generous review of my book. I could not have possibly hoped for a more thoughtful response from a reader than yours. For that, and much more, I am deeply grateful to you.

I well understand why you initially felt that I was using a self-justifying tone. The truth is I tried to avoid it, I guess not entirely successfully. It is one of the consequences of living in a life-and-death struggle for so long.

Palestinians understandably feel anger and despair at being kept under occupation for so long; Israelis too feel their version of anger and despair, at having to defend their legitimacy, their right to exist.

One of the gifts of friendship across the political divide that separates Arabs and Israelis is the ability to just be oneself, to let go of a self-justifying tone. When we develop trust in the other side, there is no need to be defensive.

That is your gift to me. I feel that, the more Arabs and Jews get to know each other, the more we will be able to lower our guard and speak to each other as friends – as brothers.

I also appreciated your review for your honesty in letting the reader know what your own process was in going through the book. Your ability to change your ideas about the book as you read on is a model for an open-minded and open-hearted approach to our differences.

There is one more reason why your review was so meaningful to me. During the Oslo years of the 1990s, Israelis spoke of peace happening “from within outward”—that is, first we would make peace with the Palestinians, and then with the rest of the Arab world. Now, though, I think that peace may need to happen “from outward within” – first with the Arab world (and especially Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States) and then with the Palestinians. As you well know, the Palestinian-Israeli track seems hopelessly stuck. But we are moving ahead – quietly, mostly behind the scenes – with a deepening strategic relationship between our countries. My hope is that we can develop, along with the strategic track, a political relationship that can be the basis for a Palestinian state, with Saudi and Gulf help. The “trade-off” I envision would be the Arab world offering Israel normalization in exchange for Israel’s withdrawal from the territories that would constitute a Palestinian state.

That’s why I feel that connections like ours are especially important now. Perhaps we are helping prepare the way for a regional peace agreement. Perhaps it is time to take the old Saudi Plan out of the drawer, dust it off and see what needs to be adopted there and what needs to be updated.

Finally, I should add that my intention in writing the book was not only to explain my position but to invite Palestinians – and others in the Arab world – to respond with their narrative. I’m grateful that so many people have responded. The new edition of “Letters” in English contains a 50-page epilogue with Palestinian responses. By ending the book with those Palestinian voices, I have tried to turn it into a real conversation over the painful issues that divide us. Sometimes it’s more important to disagree with respect than to find points of agreement.

I look forward to being in touch with you – and hopefully, to hosting you in my home in Jerusalem, Inshallah –

Can you tell me something about yourself? Your life, your work, family etc?

With blessings and warm regards,