“The most important interest of our nation,” Israeli Minister of Justice Tzipi Livni said last March, is a two-state solution. This kind of plan would maintain Israel as a Jewish and democratic state while recognizing and supporting a viable state for the Palestinians. “I believe that we must try despite all the risks.”
We must try. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, for one, is making an effort. Since becoming Secretary of State last February, he has already made several trips to Israel with intentions of restarting peace negotiations, and he plans to return soon. On June 3, in a compelling speech to the American Jewish Committee, he asked for popular support. “If we choose to make it so, this can actually be a time of possibility and a time of promise. And with your help, it can be a time of peace.” He added, “So no one has a stronger voice in this than the American Jewish community. You can play a critical part in ensuring Israel’s long-term security…Let your leaders and your neighbors alike know that you understand this will be a tough process with tough decisions, but that you’re ready to back the leaders who make them.”
It is not a time for cynicism. It is a time to grasp possibilities and mold them into realities. Two days after Kerry’s speech, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said of the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas: “So I think that he is a partner for peace, and I don’t know amongst the Palestinians who may be a better partner for peace. So if we want peace, we have to find the good excuses on why to make peace with him rather than to say why he is not ready to make peace.” Good excuses: there are worthwhile rationales that can lead to progress. If we must justify something, let us justify the vision of a peaceful future.
For those who want to learn more or to grapple with the role they wish to play, J Street’s Vice President for Communications, Alan Elsner, will give a talk at the JCC in Newton on June 19. Elsner will speak about his journey from reporter to activist as part of a discussion on “Making Sense of the Middle East.”
This is a key political moment: the Israelis recently elected a government that has shifted from the right toward the center, and President Obama is at the beginning of his second term. Conditions will never be perfect, so we must look for opportunities. V’im lo akshav, eimatai – If not now, then when? We have a responsibility to work for peace, and, as Kerry said in his speech, “everyone has a role to play.”
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